Les Moonves and Sean McManus at CBS presser in New York. Photo credit: CBS
NEW YORK–Remember when the Super Bowl pregame consisted of a few hours of programming on Super Bowl Sunday — and maybe a John Madden special.
Well, CBS will set new standards in sports TV overindulgence by kicking off its Super Bowl XLVII pre-game programming nearly a week in advance of the Feb. 3 game telecast. The ESPN brass must be jealous. I bet that would be Bristol’s playbook if sister Disney network ABC had the big game.
On Tuesday, CBS Corp. president Leslie Moonves and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said the week-long blitz will be carried across a half dozen CBS platforms, including the David Berson-led CBS Sports Network cable channel, CBS News, 60 Minutes and Showtime. Even CBS Daytime’s daytime show, The Talk, will broadcast live all week from “CBS Super Bowl Park” in New Orleans’ Jackson Square.
Starting Monday, Jan. 28, the 24/7 CBS Sports Network cable channel will air 50 hours of coverage from New Orleans. The newly launched CBS Sports Radio is planning nearly 75 hours.
CBS Sports will air seven and a-half hours of pre-game coverage on Super Bowl Sunday. The pregame starts at 11 a.m. with Inside the Super Bowl and continues through kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII at 6:30 p.m. ET. CBSSports.com, meanwhile, will have the first live stream of the Pepsi Halftime Show starring Beyonce.
SportsBizUSA covered CBS’ media day, which moved this year to The NFL Today studio set at the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan. The glitzy event was attended by major sports/news stars such as Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, James Brown, Bill Cowher, Greg Gumbel and Scott Pelley, (who’ll interview President Barack Obama). There was also new CBS Sports Network/CBS Sports Radio hires Jim Rome, Dana Jacobson, Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney.
Some highs and lows from CBS Media Day
All CBS hands on deck — except for Lettterman: CBS used to haughtily look down its nose at the hours of entertainment/advertiser-driven Super Bowl pre-game aired by other broadcasters, particularly Fox. That was then, this is now. McManus admitted the week-long Super Bowl build-up is an “entirely new” approach for CBS.
“In all previous years, CBS Sports would begin its coverage on Super Bowl Sunday at 11 a.m in the morning on that Sunday. This year, we’ll be starting a full 6 days in advance of that — at 10 a.m. on Monday morning.”
McManus made it clear all of CBS’ heavy hitters, from Nantz to Simms to Brown, etc, are expected to chip in across all platforms, including CBS Sports Network, CBS Sports Radio, CBSSports.com and Showtime. The exception: late-night diva David Letterman.
No, that doesn’t mean we’ll see 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan as a sideline reporter in New Orleans. But it’s all hands on deck. Practically every star in CBS’ media empire will be utilized someway, somehow. Whether they like it or not.
Moonves said CBS is working to get Letterman involved with some promo spots. But nothing is definite. I noticed on Sunday that Letterman will have Simms as a guest later this week.
Moonves was on:. Moonves killed it Tuesday. The big boss was at his loose, wise-cracking best. No wonder CBS’ stock is up strongly to the $40 range from $27 a year ago. I can easily see him winning over a roomful of skeptical Wall Street financial analysts.
When McManus was talking about Beyonce, Moonves drew a big laugh by interrupting to say: “I actually wanted Janet Jackson.”
He took a sly dig at ESPN when Jon Friedman of CBS Marketwatch asked about the Super Bowl’s potential TV ratings.
“Hopefully, we don’t have a game like they had last night,” Moonves said the morning after ESPN’s telecast of Alabama’s blowout victory over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.
When Rome referred to himself as a “knucklehead,” Moonves got another laugh by saying: “You may be a knucklehead — but you’re our knucklehead.”
Naturally, Moonves thumped his chest about the reach of broadcast networks by reminding everyone the last two Super Bowl exceeded 111 million TV viewers.
“It would take quite a lot of clicks on Facebook to equal that amount,” he said.
Record $4 million Ad Spots: Moonves said CBS sold some 30-second commercials for a record $4 million-plus. Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t remember the last time a Super Bowl broadcaster admitted ad rates had dropped. But given the Super Bowl’s unbelievable TV performance, it’s probable CBS is charging, and getting, higher ad rates than NBC last year.
Advertising Age reports spots are averaging between $3.7 million and $3.8 million. When Barry Janoff of NYSportsJournalim.com asked which companies forked over $4 million, Moonves declined to say.
“We don’t reveal that information. But they’re a couple of people over ($4 million). You want to get in, that’s the base,” he said.
Moonves also said ad time is sold out — then admitted it’s not really sold out. As usual with Super Bowl broadcasters, CBS is keeping a few spots in its hip pocket for last minute-advertisers. They’re typically Hollywood studios looking to generate box office buzz for new releases.
“Obviously, if one of those movie companies wants to come in at the last minute and pay us $5 or $6 million, we will find a place for you,” promised Moonves.
CBS’ local New York affiliate has even sold spots for $1 million, despite the fact that neither local team — the defending Super Bowl champion Giants or the Jets — made the playoffs.
“It’s truly extraordinary what (Super Bowl) has become to America. It’s a national holiday. It rivals Thanksgiving and Christmas and all those other wonderful days when families get together, where people get together, to enjoy.”
Just Win Baby: As a former coach who won and lost a Super Bowl, Cowher had a grim reminder for players and coaches who lose the Big One: “People don’t ask how many times you played in it. They ask you how many times you won it.”
Who knew? Charlie Rose is Charlie Sheen of CBS News. Charlie Rose has earned a reputation as something of a bon vivant for his love of New York nightlife. There were a few jokes about CBS giving Rose a curfew when he gets to New Orleans. Watch out Big Easy, Charlie Rose is coming.
Forced Laughter: It’s amazing how hard TV talent laughs when when bosses are telling corny jokes a few feet away. CBS’ on-air talent were rolling in the aisles at the hint of a joke by Moonves. I saw Aisha Tyler of The Talk nearly fall out of her chair.
Berson takes on his old employers at ESPN: The big winner to me is the new CBS Sports Network. If Moonves and McManus are serious about taking on ESPN in the cable sports arena (and it appears they are with big bucks hires like ex-ESPNer Rome), then a week of Super Bowl programming is one way to grab viewers, publicity and buzz.
ESPN will flood the zone in New Orleans, of course. They always do. But CBS’ new cable channel network will have the inside track on guests and behind-the-scenes coverage.
I was impressed with Berson, the ex-ESPN executive turned president of CBS Sports Network. He joined CBS in 2011 after 16 years at ESPN. The heat will be on him in New Orleans as he takes on his former employers in Bristol. But he seems confident and ready to roll. Any distinction between on-air talent from CBS Sports, and the new cable channel and other platforms, is a thing of the past, he said.
“Coach Cowher, JB, Greg Gumbel, Nantz, Simms. Those guys are all part of CBS Sports Network now — regularly,” Berson told SportsBizUSA. “Simms has a weekly show every Monday of football season as part of CBS Sports Network. So it’s really not that someone’s on CBS Sports ‘broadcast’ any more as a different entity. This is all part of the same family now. All the on-air folks come and go across all the different networks and platforms.”
First Halftime Show to be Streamed Live: CBSSports.com will live stream the Super Bowl halftime show for the first time, said Jason Kint, senior vice president of CBS Interactive. CBSSports.com will “program live” straight to online all week long, Kint said. It will have more reporters than ever before at the Super Bowl.
For consumers interested in the Super Bowl TV commercials, all spots will be built directly into the video player as they air live, he added. But CBSSports.com has no interest in conducting a USA TODAY-style poll of consumers’ favorite Super Bowl spots, Kint said.
Cowher returning to coaching? My friend Neil Best of (New York) Newsday came up with the best scoop at the event when he got Cowher to admit he’ll probably leave TV and return to the NFL sidelines at some point.
But on Saturday, Cowher contradicted himself when JB asked him about those comments on The NFL Today. Said Cowher:
Contrary to reports, I have no plans on coaching. I plan on being with one team. And that is this team here at CBS.
Political journalist Michael Kinsley defined a “gaffe” as those rare moments when a politician accidentally tells the truth.
I believe Cowher told Newsday the truth. But changed his tune when his CBS bosses and PR people got in his ear.
Cowher seems like a straight shooter. But so many coaches have lied so many times about their job plans (See Saban, Nick) they don’t get the benefit of the doubt.