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Super Bowl XXXVIII: CBS Eyes a $170 Million Sunday

The hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl is going to get even bigger, if you can believe it. CBS and its co-owned Viacom networks are planning more game-related coverage then ever before.

Just for starters, Jim Nantz, host of CBS's NFL Today, has come up with an idea to stage a big "opening ceremony," event the Monday before the game. He likens it to the opening ceremonies of Olympic Games.

On game day itself, the pregame programming is about 75% sold. Rates range from $100,000 per spot to $1million per spot, rising in cost as the day progresses. Assuming a CBS sell-out, it should be a $170 million day for CBS alone.

That's not counting the Viacom cable networks. At least a half dozen of them are concocting some kind of special programming tied to the Super Bowl. MTV will produce the half-time entertainment, although those plans are still far from finalized, officials say.

Nickelodeon, TV Land, BET, CMT and Spike TV are also taking a piece of the NFL's premier event. Spike, for example, is planning a sweepstakes that will award one viewer the chance to go to the game and then document the experience as part of Spike's Ten Things Every Guy Should Experience

CMT will do a live Top 20 Countdown show at the game. Nickelodeon will put a kid sports reporter at the scene, filing live reports for Nick Games and Sports, the digital channel.

CBS's game-day coverage kicks off at 11 a.m. ET with Nickelodeon Takes Over the Super Bowl. That hour-long special will be followed by an hour produced by MTV, based on its Total Request Live
show, which in turn will be followed at 1 p.m. by the Phil Simms All-Iron Team. After that, at 2 p.m., a four-hour NFL Today
pre-Super Bowl show will air, leading up to game time at 6 p.m.

On Saturday night, CBS will air a prime time special called Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials.
Ad-wise, 80% of the game's commercials (48 of 60 spots) have been sold to Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi Co., General Motors, Warner Bros. and Sony at an average rate of $2.4 million per 30-second unit. AOL is sponsoring the half-time show. "We're actually ahead of where we were at this time three years ago when we had the game last," said John Bogusz, executive vice president, sports sales, CBS.

The game, slated for Houston on Feb. 1, will likely be the first one with an opening ceremony. Super Bowl XXXVIII: A Houston Salute, is scheduled for Jan. 26, the Monday before the game.

TV coverage plans for the salute are still in the formative stages. But officials at Belo-owned KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston, say they are interested in doing some type of special coverage and are talking with the event's organizers about the possibilities.

Nantz, a Houston native who is chairman of the Houston Salute
event committee, will serve as master of ceremonies of the event, to be held at Reliant Arena, where the Super Bowl will be played.

Nantz emceed the NFL's first annual NFL opening-week kick-off concert in New York's Times Square last year. "If it merits a celebration to kick off the regular season," he said, "I think there should be some sort of celebration or opening ceremony to signify the beginning of Super Bowl week.

"I'd be very surprised," he added, "if the league didn't say, after [this season's] Super Bowl, this is something we have to do from this point forward."

Nantz's friend and fellow Houstonian Former President George Bush is honorary chairman of the event committee and will also participate. (It's unclear at this point whether his son, the current president, will attend, but he has been invited.)

The event is a mix of entertainment (Yanni will be on hand to provide the music), a tribute to the game of football (clips documenting the great moments of the game will be displayed on giant video screens) and charity event.

Houston's sporting elite will participate, says Nantz, including such greats as Olympians Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton, Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell, George Forman and A.J. Foyt.

CBS may not want to blow out its lucrative Monday-night lineup to air it, but Viacom has enough cable networks that it certainly can find a place to put it.