CBS Is Evaluating Changes to Its Super Bowl Ad Presentation, Sports Chairman Says

Network is exploring two-box commercial display, selling fewer units, according to McManus
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus speaks at a 2015 event in Pasadena, Calif. On Wednesday, McManus said the network was looking into potential changes for its approach to Super Bowl advertising. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
May 22, 2019 at 5:05 pm UTC

NEW YORK -- CBS is considering possible changes to how it packages commercial advertising inventory around future Super Bowl broadcasts, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said Wednesday. The comments come two months after it was reported that Fox intends to reduce ad breaks -- from five to four each quarter -- in next year’s broadcast of Super Bowl LIV.

Speaking at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York, McManus said that the network isn’t keen on reducing the amount of commercial time overall but is considering other options for how to display ads, including a double-box scenario that would show game footage next to an advertisement, or even airing fewer overall commercial units.

Thirty-second spots for the most recent big game, which CBS televised in February, sold for roughly $5 million as the media network generated an estimated $20 million in advertising sales across its digital properties, McManus said.

“Trying to find that balance between reducing inventory and increasing demand and just taking in as much money as you can by airing the most amount of commercials, is a dynamic we’re looking at very carefully,” he said.

During the PGA Championship, CBS consistently used the two-box advertising package, with research saying that engagement on advertising is greater than through full-screen commercials, the chairman said. Still, McManus cautioned that certain sports -- soccer, car racing and golf -- lend itself better to the two-box experience because there’s action during commercials while others such as baseball, basketball, hockey and football have already defined commercials breaks, so fans don’t miss game action.

At the Q&A session, he also addressed the impact of gambling on CBS’ business and programming, a topic the company said prior to the most recent Super Bowl that it would not discuss either before or during the game. While in-game play, free or paid, can increase fan engagement, McManus said there has to be a “happy medium with the gambling information” provided, and it cannot “overwhelm the broadcast.”

“You can’t gear your broadcast so much to the gambler that you alienate and you turn off the regular viewer who doesn’t have an interest in gambling,” he added.

The remarks come days after Fox Sports signed a deal with StarsGroup Inc. to create two betting products under Fox Bet, the biggest entrance into sports gambling for any major media U.S. network. In addition, following its purchase of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s assets, Walt Disney Co. now has a stake in betting and daily fantasy company DraftKings Inc.

With the continued U.S. expansion of legalized sports betting, gambling companies are seen as an advertising growth area for CBS Sports, McManus said, with the network currently speaking to a number of gambling operators, though he didn’t cite specific organizations.

“I believe we will have a definitive strategy sometime within the next year and what direction we’re going to go” with gambling, he said.

Finally, when asked if Tony Romo, CBS’ lead NFL analyst, would be involved with broadcasts for other sports, McManus said he couldn’t see that happening for the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, whose representatives are reportedly seeking $10 million annually for him to continue working with CBS in 2020 and beyond.

“Tony has really exploded onto the scene,” the chairman said. “We look forward to having him as our lead analyst in the NFL for many years.”

A headshot photograph of Mark J. Burns
Mark J. Burns
Sports Analyst

Mark J. Burns previously worked at Morning Consult as a sports analyst.

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