Nets see ad gains as Favre flies to Jets

Sales good for ESPN, CBS despite slow economy

NEW YORK -- With a storied quarterback just landed in New York for the start of the football season, the networks are getting ready for the Favre Effect.

After the strongest-rated Super Bowl in history and eye-popping ratings for several games in the regular season, ESPN has a "Monday Night Football" game that will feature Brett Favre and the Jets three weeks into the season. CBS, which holds the rights to the AFC, has a lot of Jets games on their schedule. NBC doesn't have a Jets game through the first seven "Sunday Night Football" games but can use flexible scheduling in the back half of the season.

Favre's jump to the Jets is all music to the ears of those networks at a time when they're selling ad inventory for the NFL regular season. ESPN and CBS are progressing well in the ad sales arena despite a tough economic climate. CBS is seeing CPM increases of the high single digits with strength in auto, insurance and other sectors, said John Bogusz, executive vp sales at CBS Sports.

"Now more than ever, live sports like football continue to be something that advertisers recognize break through," said ESPN/ABC Sports ad sales president Ed Earhardt.

ESPN's "Monday Night Football" will have what it thinks will be marquee match-ups in the first three games of the season. The first week is a Green Bay Packers game with new quarterback Aaron Rogers. The second week is a Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game that will honor Mexican independence day. And the third week will be a Jets-Chargers game from San Diego.

ESPN's production chief, Norby Williamson, joked Tuesday that the Jets game in Week 3 was the product of great planning.

"We worked with the NFL to orchestrate the Jets at the Chargers," he joked. In reality, the schedule was set long before Favre ever arrived in New York.

But the effect's of Favre's move was very much on the minds of CBS Sports, whose lead play-by-play announcer told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he had never seen anything like the buzz surrounding the quarterback.

"It's the biggest game of Week 1 that I can ever remember," Jim Nantz said.

Boomer Esiason, a former Jets quarterback who is a color commentator for CBS Sports and co-hosts a local sports show on a New York radio station, agreed.

"You wouldn't ever know that the New York Giants existed, and they're the Super Bowl champions," Esiason said. "It's crazy."

Fox has two Jets games on its air, against Arizona on Sept. 28 and St. Louis on Nov. 9. They used to have a lot more when Favre was with the Packers, including last season's overtime game where the Giants beat the Packers to get to the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Showtime announced Tuesday that former All-Pro lineman Warren Sapp will join the cast of "Inside the NFL" when it begins next month on the channel. James Brown will host, and Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth will serve as analysts with Sapp.