CBS Scores Double-Digit Ad Revenue Gain with NFL Season Set To Kick Off

NFL CBS Ad sale

CBS is seeing a surge in advertiser demand for commercials in its NFL games as the league gets set to kick off a new season with increased interest in legal sports betting.

The network has a double-digit revenue gain on the scoreboard compared to last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed advertising commitments to NFL games and to TV overall.

“It’s definitely a different landscape than it was a year ago,” said Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer for ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales. “People moved a lot earlier than they did last year, because there is pent-up demand.”

That pent-up demand drove TV’s overall upfront advertising market. A year ago, deals for the 2020-21 TV season didn’t close until around Labor Day because advertisers were uncertain about the economy. This year’s upfront moved quickly, with deals happening around Memorial Day.

Price increases in this year's upfront were the highest in years, with broadcast primetime up 19% to 22% on a cost-per-thousand viewers basis. Prices for NFL spots didn’t rise quite as much, but hikes were still in the teens. 

During last year’s regular season, CBS rang up ad sales of $609 million, according to Standard Media Index. Advertisers paid an average of about $377,420 for a 30-second spot during CBS’s regular season NFL telecasts. CBS tacked on another $400.7 million in revenue for its Super Bowl broadcast.

John Bogusz, executive VP for sports sales & marketing at CBS Sports said that the key ad categories responsible for the increased spending are led by the insurance companies, followed by telecom, the FAANG technology companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) and sports books.

“The gaming category being introduce this year really acted as a catalyst for the marketplace,” said Tony Taranto, senior VP sports sales, for CBS Sports. “It’s probably the most significant new category in a generation.”

Unlike the fantasy football category, which spent hundreds of million before flaming out, Taranto expects gaming to stay big for many years to come. And because NFL rules allow it to only sell a limited number of commercials to league recognized sports books, the category’s ad dollars are spilling over into other dayparts.

NFL advertisers will benefit from games streaming to cord-cutters via Paramount Plus. And another game will be simulcast this season on Nickelodeon. Only a handful of advertisers with products inappropriate for young viewers won’t appear on both the CBS and Nick telecasts, Bogusz said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.