As CBS (US) nears a sellout with Super Bowl LIII, executives say the network is also in good advertising sales positions with two other important programs: the American Football Conference championship game and the debut of competition show "The World's Best."
Already, 90% of ad inventory for the Super Bowl, set to be played Feb. 3 in Atlanta, has been sold, and CBS Corp. executives are also bullish about airing the AFC championship. That game, kicking off at 6:40 p.m. ET Jan. 20, is expected to be the second-most-watched telecast of the year behind the NFL title match.
John Bogusz, CBS executive vice president of sports sales and marketing said in an interview after the company's Jan. 10 Super Bowl Media Day that sales have been strong for the AFC championship game.
"We're in good shape, but talking to those who want to come in," he said, noting that a number of advertisers have bought spots in both the AFC title game and Super Bowl LIII.
CBS and FOX (US), with its coverage of the National Football Conference championship contest, alternate each year for the 6:40 p.m. ET time slot. Last season, FOX (US) averaged 42.3 million watchers with Philadelphia-Minnesota in the NFC title match, while CBS' 2017 presentation of New England-Pittsburgh in that evening time slot garnered 48.0 million viewers on average.
As to this year's NFL title game, Bogusz said CBS is in a similar sell-through position as when it televised Super Bowl L, which he believes puts the network ahead of where NBC (US) and FOX stood with the last two games. NBC in 2018 reached a sellout just two days before the kickoff of Super Bowl LII, while FOX never confirmed that it moved all of the inventory in the big game the year before.
CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl, who bemoaned the absence of his Green Bay Packers from this year's postseason, told media day attendees that the AFC championship game will serve as the lead-out for an episode of the reboot of "Magnum P.I.," starring actor Jay Hernandez, with this installment featuring former NFL running back Eddie George.
Additionally, Super Bowl LIII and its expected nine-figure-plus audience will provide a strong audience platform for "The World's Best," hosted by James Corden. The "Late Late Show" star will be flanked by judges RuPaul, Drew Barrymore and Faith Hill, as well as 50 experts from around the world, weighing in on the contestants' efforts.
Kahl provided attendees with a first look at the sizzle reel, which showcased an array of singers, dancers, martial artists, acrobats, fire-walkers, sword-swallowers and Corden engaging with varied performers.
After the press conference, Jo Ann Ross, CBS president of sales and chief advertising revenue officer, said sales in "The World's Best" have been "good."
Asked for an update on where sales stood for the series finale of long-running top comedy "The Big Bang Theory," Ross replied, "Very good and very expensive." She added that CBS plans to work with show co-creator and prolific TV producer Chuck Lorre on "eventizing" the finale.
"We're sorry to see ['Big Bang'] go, but people, clients and fans have really embraced [prequel] 'Young Sheldon,'" she said. "If you're a fan of 'Big Bang,' you're a fan of 'Young Sheldon.'"
The company has high hopes for "Young Sheldon." CBS Chief Creative Officer David Nevins, speaking at a recent investor conference, called it "underrated."
"It was a top 10 show last year; it's a top 5 show this year. And it is not nearly as lead-in-dependent as people might imagine. You put a repeat in front of it and it does the same exact numbers. It's drawing its own audience," said Nevins.
Nevins said "Young Sheldon" stepping into its predecessor's shoes is "a sign of a healthy machine that you're churning the next one, as things get older and it's time to go away. You reset at a lower cost basis and the next show is ready to go in. It's very similar to when 'Big Bang' replaced 'Two and a Half Men' and when 'Two and a Half Men' replaced '[Everybody Loves] Raymond.'"