CBS Seeks More Than $500K for Ads in ‘Thursday Night Football’

CBS is seeking more than half a million dollars for a 30-second spot in its coming “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts,which will be simulcast on cable’s the NFL Network — the latest signal that TV networks believe live football gives them a greater advantage in reaching the large crowds of consumers their sponsors expect.

At $500,000 or more, a spot in the show, which is being broadcast on CBS via a partnership established in February with the National Football League, would cost advertisers more than any other program on primetime TV except for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” according to a Variety survey of primetime ad prices. NBC was able to command an average of $628,000 for a 30-second spot in last season’s series of games, according to the survey.

The second most-expensive primetime show last season was ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts, which cost advertisers an average of $408,000, according to the survey.

Even football, however,  is facing greater scrutiny from potential sponsors. Advertisers tamped down the amount of money they have been willing to place on advance ad inventory in this year’s annual “upfront,” so even these highly-viewed pieces of content are not sold out.

“There is still space available” in CBS’ Sunday-afternoon and Thursday-night football broadcasts, said John Bogusz, the network’s executive vice president of sports sales and marketing, in an interview. “We are happy with where we are,” he said of the amount of advertising sold.

Lowe’s and Verizon will sponsor the first half-hour and second half-hour, respectively, of the Thursday pre-game show while Lexus will sponsor halftime and Mazda will support the post-game show.

CBS is guaranteeing a 12.3 household rating for the games, which is not far behind performance of NBC’s Sunday-night matches from last season. That rating would be a cume of the broadcasts on both CBS and NFL Network — and an underlying factor in why the CBS games cost less than NBC’s, according to ad buyers.

Bogusz said CBS has seen good demand for football from automobile manufacturers, movie studios, fast food chains, beverage marketers and telecommunications advertisers.

In a Monday presentation, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said, “The entire CBS Corp. is behind” the new Thursday-night broadcasts. “We are determined to work with the NFL to make sure this is a success.” The eight-game CBS package is expected to run Sept. 11 to Oct. 30.

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