March Madness Nearly Sold Out

NEW YORK CBS is about 95 percent sold out of its NCAA men’s college basketball tournament coverage, with prices for a 30-second slot ranging from $100,000 for the early rounds to $1.2 million for the championship game, according to John Bogusz, evp, sports sales and marketing, CBS.

Bogusz said units are selling at mid-single-digit percentages higher than last year’s coverage, and that broadcast revenue for the entire tournament is expected to bring in $100 million. He added that only a handful of units remain unsold for the title game, which airs Monday, April 2.

All major ad sponsors are back this year, he said, including so-called “Championship Partners” Cingular/AT&T, Coca-Cola and GM/Pontiac. “Partners” include State Farm insurance, Lowe’s hardware chain, the Hartford insurance company, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and DiGiorno’s pizza. Bogusz added that new advertisers include Bank of America and UPS.

The hour-long show on naming the 65-team field, Selection Sunday on March 11, which kicks off CBS’ tournament coverage, is also sold out, with units going for close to $100,000, said Bogusz.

“The Selection Sunday show has become a sporting event in itself, and will generate a bigger rating than any NBA game until the NBA finals,” said March Madness announcer Jim Nance.

Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports and News, said ad revenue for March Madness on Demand, in which tournament games can be accessed via Web site CBS Sportsline, has doubled from last year and is sold out. “This is all incremental ad revenue and is not cannibalizing ad sales for our broadcast coverage,” noted McManus.

CBS acquired on-demand rights from the NCAA in 1999 when it signed its current TV rights deal.

College sports network CSTV, which CBS owns, also said today it would televise two first-round out-of-market games from the NCAA tournament on March 15 and 16, the first two days of competition. The games will be simulcast with CBS and will contain the same advertisers.