ViacomCBS Inc.’s CBS is seeking around $5.5 million for 30-second commercial spots in next year’s Super Bowl, roughly in line with commercial prices in the 2020 game, according to people close to the talks.
CBS is also requiring advertisers in the Super Bowl telecast to appear in the game’s online stream, at an additional cost of roughly $200,000, a person familiar with the matter said.
Ad buyers are asking for a way out of their Super Bowl commitments, however, if the coronavirus forces the National Football League to halt the coming season or otherwise not play its championship game, the people close to the talks said.
That is partly because the Super Bowl is so much bigger than anything else on TV, and commands so much more attention, that it would be hard for a TV network to make good on the lost ratings points for advertisers if the game wasn’t played.
“There’s no plan B for Super Bowl,” said Tom McGovern, president of Optimum Sports, a sports marketing group at Omnicom Group Inc.
Every year, brands spend millions of dollars producing commercials and buying ad time for the Super Bowl, one of the few remaining places to reach a mass audience. The 2020 game in February drew 102 million viewers on the Fox network as well as digital platforms and its Spanish-language channel. Fox’s Super Bowl ad revenue totaled $525.4 million, according to ad data firm Kantar.
Ad prices typically rise every year.
In February, 30-second Super Bowl commercials on Fox Corp.’s Fox went for as much as $5.6 million, including ad placement on both the TV and digital screen.
CBS’s decision not to seek a more significant price hike fits market trends this year, which remains marked by uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, ad buyers said.
Many marketers have cut advertising in response to the economic damage caused by the pandemic, particularly in categories such as movies and retail, but brands with ad dollars to spend are still likely to be tempted by the Super Bowl’s outsize audience.
The sticker price for Super Bowl ads is just a starting point, and many advertisers pay less depending on the amount of time they want to buy and their historic spending in the game.
ViacomCBS has told buyers they’ll be able to get their money back if the game is canceled, according to the person familiar with the matter. Some ad buyers have asked for contracts with clauses around contingencies, but most agreements have been verbal, the person said.
Super Bowl buys in the past haven’t included explicit options to back out in case of cancellation, but every deal is different, with some negotiated years ahead of the game and others just weeks before, according to ad agency and TV network executives.
Marketers concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the economy and the fall football season may hold back on making a Super Bowl commitment until closer to the game, ad buyers said.
“I’d be cautiously considering any Super Bowl investment with the uncertainty of sports and the marketplace,” said Carrie Drinkwater, executive director of investment at ad-buying firm Mediahub, part of Interpublic Group of Cos . “To commit that amount of money to something that is an unknown seems at this time fiscally irresponsible.”
Still, many expect the NFL to deliver high ratings and valuable advertising opportunities if the season and championship can avoid the pitfalls of the pandemic.
“The Super Bowl will be the most-watched TV show,” said Mr. McGovern, the Optimum Sports executive.
It will stand out even more this year as one of the few events with a mass audience as the pandemic takes a toll on other big events such as the Oscars. Organizers have delayed the 2021 awards show to April from February, and are likely to have fewer theatrical releases to celebrate.
The overall NFL marketplace is healthy for now, with pricing moderately up over last year for regular-season games, according to people close to those deals.
“The NFL has been, is and will be an active marketplace because there are big ratings,” said Mike Law, president at Dentsu ad-buying group Amplifi.
The season is scheduled to open on Sept. 10 with a game between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, the most recent Super Bowl champions.