CBS is on track to have its biggest single revenue day ever on Feb. 3, when the network broadcasts Super Bowl LIII, said Joe Ianniello, CBS Corp.’s acting CEO, during a media presentation to promote the big game.
The network expects to pull in about $500 million for the day with 30-second Super Bowl spots going for more than $5 million a pop and the network’s inventory 90 percent sold out 24 days before the game. Ianniello and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus would not offer specific tune-in predictions, except to state the obvious: that the Super Bowl would be the most watched event of 2019. Last year’s game on NBC drew a little over 103 million viewers, a 7 percent decline compared with the year before. But viewership for regular season NFL games has increased 6 percent this season, which signals an uptick for the big game.
CBS is still in discussions with the White House about getting Donald Trump to sit for the traditional pre-Super Bowl interview. Last year, Trump declined NBC’s invitation.
CBS will bow its new James Corden-hosted competition show, The World’s Best after the Super Bowl followed by Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Corden’s Late Late Show will have a special Sunday airing on Jan. 20, after CBS’ primetime coverage of the AFC Championship Game.
The event, at Studio 43 at CBS headquarters on West 57th Street in New York, was notable for the inclusion of executives from all its signature divisions, including CBS Entertainment chief Kelly Kahl, a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, and newly minted CBS News president Susan Zirinsky. And this year’s Super Bowl is the kind of all-hands-on-deck event that company executives hope will help to turn the page on a year that has been among the toughest in the company’s storied history.
“In this last year, each division has come together to prop each other up,” said Zirinsky, adding that for the news division, covering the Super Bowl “is so different than what we have to do on a daily basis. We’re sharing a joyous event with the country. It’s so positive.”
Zirinsky, a four-decade veteran of CBS News, was announced as the new president of the news division on Monday. She was greeted warmly by her fellow executives. Kahl noted his close working relationship over the years with Zirinsky, who has been running the primetime news magazine 48 Hours. “I know I speak for a lot of people who feel incredibly proud and excited to have you in this new role,” he said from the podium.
Later, Ianniello told The Hollywood Reporter that he did not realize when he made the call that Zirinsky’s appointment “would be universally applauded.”
“She is the right person at the right time, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a female,” said Ianniello. “She is the most qualified person.”
Zirinsky’s appointment follows Showtime executive David Nevins’ elevation to chief creative officer overseeing the company’s entertainment assets. Ianniello himself has been at CBS for more than 20 years, since graduating from Columbia University with an MBA. He was elevated from COO to acting CFO last September, when serious misconduct allegations eventually forced out Les Moonves. The CBS board has retained an executive search firm to vet candidates for the CEO post, for which Ianniello is also in the running. But there have been reports that the board is looking for someone who could run both CBS and Viacom, after an expected re-merger of the media assets. But while Ianniello conceded that he would like to make his post permanent, he says he’s simply “humbled” to be a “boy from Brooklyn, public-school educated” and running a top media company.
“I’m going to soak it up every day that I can. It’s really just a great ride,” he said.
When asked if he thinks the worst is behind him, he said: “I do, I do. In 2019, we’re looking forward. I’ve been here 21 years. I know the people. I know the assets. The team is executing. We’re performing. CEOs either get too much credit or too much blame. The [key] is to surround yourself with great people. I think we have that here.”