CBS' Strong Upfront, Early NFL Deal-Making Yields Solid Advertising Position

Gaining a big draft from the overall strength of the national TV market, ViacomCBS -- as well as other major TV network groups -- inked stronger, high-priced NFL ad deals, helped by new connected TV (CTV) streaming services that will air the league games.

“We have actually gone to double-digit [percentage price] increases for the NFL throughout the regular season and playoffs,” says John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales and marketing for CBS Sports, speaking to Television News Daily. “We are very well sold going into the season.”

Deal-making in the marketplace, he says, “has been healthy, active, and moved significantly earlier than a year ago.” Much of this comes quickly, beginning after Memorial Day.

Going forward, CBS has scatter game inventory available for selective regular-season weeks as well as inventory in the playoffs. “There is going to be a pricing premium associated with [that inventory].” says Bogusz.



There will also be an extension into streaming plans.

CBS’ traditional TV advertising feed will extend to ViacomCBS’ streaming platform Paramount+, which not only broadens the reach for marketers, but helps pull in younger viewers favored by many advertisers, says Bogusz.

Standard Media Index says overall, NFL games pulled in $3.4 billion in ad revenues in total for all national TV networks for the 2020/2021 TV season -- excluding the Super Bowl.

Last year, the NFL benefited from more at-home marketers, due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- delivery services, premium streaming video businesses and technology services.

Tony Taranto, senior vice president of sports sales for CBS Sports, says these marketers returned to the NFL this season: “All those advertisers really stuck [with us] this season.”

Last season, at-home focused NFL TV advertisers (or those steering more messaging in that direction) included: Amazon, Apple, Postmates, Google, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Microsoft Teams, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu, Uber Eats and Amazon Fire TV, according to

Taranto also notes that movie studios are increasing spending as theaters continue to slowly open. The winter holiday season is typically a revenue-producing period for cinemas.

This year, the NFL has allowed “approved” sports betting operations to buy national TV advertising inventory, due to increasing legalization of sports wagering in many states.

“Gaming is a new category which will act as a catalyst,” says Taranto. “Demand has been very strong because this is the first time [gambling operations can buy NFL TV advertising].” At the same time, he notes: “There will be winners and losers in this category.”

The NFL approved seven sportsbooks for the new season -- including Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, FanDuel, Fox Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet and WynnBET.

When it comes to new ways to expand beyond a 30-second commercial, CBS says it will continue to try new onscreen ideas for marketers.

“Double boxes are very popular; the research bears that out,” says Taranto, referring to the simultaneous split-screen video. This can feature live in-stadium footage during time outs in one video box, and ad messaging in another side-by-side video box.

“New permutations probably won’t come until the next contract cycle where we can experiment a little bit more,” Taranto says.

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