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Super Bowl

CBS Is Holding Some Super Bowl Ad Slots to Sell Last Minute for 'North of $5 Million'

Banking on late buyers

CBS is already commanding $5 million for some ad slots during Super Bowl 50. Robert Deutsch/CBS

Exactly two months before Super Bowl 50 airs, CBS said it is holding back a few of its 30-second spots so it can sell them last-minute to advertisers who are desperate to get into the Big Game. 

"We could close it out tomorrow if we wanted," Les Moonves, CBS Corp. president and CEO, told investors today at UBS's annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. But the network believes it can fetch "north of $5 million a spot" shortly before the big game.

"As you get closer and closer to the game, there's going to be some advertiser who has to be in the Super Bowl," said Moonves, indicating that a movie studio would be the most likely candidate to shell out right before the game. 

This year's Super Bowl drew 114.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched show in U.S. TV history, and CBS is betting that at least one brand will decide at the last minute that it can't resist reaching such a large audience.

The network, which will broadcast Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, has received as much as $5 million for some of its 30-second ads, Moonves said during an earnings call in August. This year, CBS will livestream all national ads for Super Bowl 50.

In July, CBS had been selling spots in the $4.6 million to $4.7 million range, a person with knowledge of the talks told Adweek at the time. At that point, only 20 to 25 of the 30-second spots remained for sale.

Last year, NBC didn't sell out its Super Bowl ad inventory until Jan. 28, just four days before the game. The average price for those 30-second spots was $4.5 million. A year earlier, Fox had sold all of its in-game spots by Dec. 4.

While the network is in no hurry to sell out its ad inventory, CBS has been working to finalize other Super Bowl-related business. Last month, it locked in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the post-Super Bowl time slot.

In non-Super Bowl news, Moonves said CBS' volume was down 4 percent to 5 percent in this year's upfront. But thanks to the strong scatter market—"third quarter scatter was phenomenally good, and fourth was even better than that"—he predicts "next year's upfront is going to be extraordinarily strong" since advertisers are regretting not paying "20 percent less," as they could have during the upfront.

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