NCAA's March Madness Near Sellout Levels

Despite an overall slowdown in near-term national TV ad sales, the NCAA March Madness tournament airing on CBS and Warner Bros. cable networks starting next week has exceeded its goals for advertising volume and pricing.

Broader national TV markets have been weak in terms of overall entertainment advertising in the recent fourth and first quarter scatter markets, as some analysts expect a recession sometime later this year.

“This is not the case in the sports marketplace,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of CBS Sports Sales, Paramount Advertising, speaking at a Wednesday press conference.

“The sports marketplace continues to hold up extremely well in this current economic environment -- and it holds true for the NCAA Tournament... We have surpassed our goals for linear [TV] dollars.” Analysts estimate the big men's college basketball event annually pulls in around $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in national TV advertising revenue.



Bogusz added that this is also the case when it comes to growing digital media dollars and its corporate champion and partners business, which this year will include Dick's Sporting Goods. Overall there are 17 NCAA corporate partners and champions.

Cost-per-thousand viewer (CPM) pricing for the NCAA’s Men's Basketball Tournament has seen “mid to high single digit (percentage) increases,” he added.

Major spending increases for ad categories in the NCAA event this year include insurance, technology, quick service restaurants “and even movie” marketers, said Jon Diament, executive vice president of advertising sales for Warner Bros. Discovery.

In terms of inventory, Bogusz said: “The first weekend in very tight. The second week, with the sweet sixteen, we have a few more avails. And Final Four and Championship Weekend is basically sold out.”

NCAA marketers buying linear TV airings of the games also buy into all digital TV offerings. “It's 100 percent. We see great sellout level for both products,” said Diament. But he added that marketers can't pick and choose between buying just digital or just linear inventory -- they need to buy both linear TV and digital streaming as a package: ldquo;You really can't. We don't encourage people to do it.”

Diament says the event still yields “incredibly upscale” viewers over the course of the three-week period.

Returning NCAA corporate champions include AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. NCAA corporate partners include: Aflac, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Dick's Sporting Goods, Great Clips, Invesco, LG, Marriott, Nabisco, Nissan, Pizza Hut, Reese's, Unilever, and Wendy's.

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