CBS Expects "Vibrant" NFL Ad Market This Year

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This year's NFL Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show on Feb. 3 in Atlanta

Ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross says that NFL CPMs are up mid-to-high single digits from last year, with insurance and tech giants leading the charge.

With the NFL season just a few weeks away, executives at CBS say that the sport remains resilient to outside pressure, with advertisers still eager to reach the wide swath of viewers that tune in to live games each week.

“The marketplace is very vibrant right now,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told reporters Tuesday at an NFL on CBS media day, held at the network’s broadcast center in New York. “We have more to sell this year because we have that extra divisional playoff game.”

Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer for CBS, says that NFL CPM pricing is up mid-to-high single digits from last year, with insurance and “digital native” companies like Google, Facebook and Netflix accounting for the strongest categories.

“For Netflix, when you look at the Emmy considerations, they come to the broadest reach,” Ross said.

The company bundled some NFL ad sales into its upfront, though Ross said that business remains strong even now that the upfront has closed.

“Since we have closed the upfront we have written another big chunk of business, which brings us to a number that we are very happy with, pacing slightly ahead of last year,” said the exec.

While Fox will broadcast the next Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2020, CBS will get the game in 2021, giving it two Super Bowls in three years. “[CBS Super Bowl] Sales will pick up as soon as Fox has finished their game,” McManus said.

The media day was held just a few hours before CBS and Viacom unveiled their plans to merge Tuesday afternoon.

McManus joked about the merger in comments to reporters: "Anything happening at CBS? Nothing is going on corporately, obviously it has been quiet on the CBS corporate front."

Still, when asked about the role of CBS Sports in a combined company, McManus said that the role of CBS Sports was unlikely to change.

“We all know the value of sports television," he said. We all know how valuable the NFL is, it is the most dominant branding in television. … Whatever happens to CBS, corporately, sports will continue to remain a really important part of our portfolio.”