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CBS pushes ad sales past 90% sell-through level for Super Bowl LIII

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CBS pushes ad sales past 90% sell-through level for Super Bowl LIII

With just over three weeks until the kickoff of Super Bowl LIII, CBS (US) has sold almost all of the inventory in the NFL championship game, driving what is expected to be a record revenue day for parent CBS Corp.

At CBS Super Bowl media day on Jan. 10 in New York, Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO, said that while the Feb. 3 contest from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will deliver the biggest audience of the year on the broadcast network, the entire company is supporting the title tilt, with its TV stations, entertainment and syndication arms, CBS News Inc., CBS Sports Network (US), CBS Interactive Inc., digital entries, including CBS All Access and premium network Showtime all in the game, so to speak.

Ianniello said CBS will generate "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions" with its presentation of Super Bowl LIII and the attendant coverage for the event.

After the press conference, Ianniello said that Feb. 3 should become the largest revenue day in the corporation's history, except for "one caveat," pointing to Showtime's participation in the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao boxing match in May 2015. That event generated a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, revenues for which Showtime shared with HBO, cable and other distributors, and the promoters and fighters, among others.

Asked if CBS would approach the $500 million NBCUniversal Media LLC generated with last year's NFL championship game, Ianniello said the company would "absolutely" be in that ballpark. "We haven't tallied everything up yet," he said, noting that revenues could be a "little over or little under" that mark.

Ianniello said that account executives are still working on selling commercials within Super Bowl LIII and other related pregame and postgame coverage on the various outlets, as well as units in "The World's Best," a competition show whose debut will benefit from the large audience provided by the championship game. He also noted that the title contest will drive revenue from new subscribers to CBS All Access, the direct-to-consumer service that will air the Super Bowl for the first time.

Still, Ianniello said that the lion's share of revenue will come from advertising.

Jo Ann Ross, CBS president of sales and chief advertising revenue officer, told Super Bowl media day attendees that in terms of sales, the company is "in great shape."

"We never say the game is sold out, but we are 90% sold and our team is back in the office" working on the balance, said Ross.

According to Ross, the sales process kicked off the day after NBC (US) concluded its Super Bowl LII coverage, and there has also been "great interest in ancillary programming," with the sales teams able to secure title sponsors for the various pregame and postgame programming.

Ross said the company was not at liberty to say which companies are being associated with what shows. "We've never signed more nondisclosure agreements," she quipped.

As to the game itself, beer, soda, autos, movie studios and tech are well-represented, according to Ross, with multiple units spoken for.

The roster is a traditional mix of Super Bowl game sponsors and newcomers. Perennial players Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, which has reportedly secured 5.5 minutes of time in the contest, and PepsiCo Inc., including its Doritos brand, are in the game, as is Ross' "favorite": Avocados from Mexico.

Those tuning in to the game to see the commercials rather than the action on the field will not be disappointed.

"We have seen some of the creative. It is certainly Super Bowl-worthy," said Ross.

John Bogusz, CBS' executive vice president of sports sales and marketing, said CBS has sold a number of 60-second spots in the Super Bowl, with the longer messages often lending themselves to more interesting storytelling.