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After a rough 2018, CBS looking for a lift from Super Bowl LIII

After a rough 2018, CBS looking for a lift from Super Bowl LIII
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will join Jim Nantz to call his first Super Bowl game for CBS Sports on Feb. 3. (Gail Burton / AP)

CBS Corp. has been battered in the past year as its longtime larger-than-life leader Leslie Moonves was removed following allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

But on Thursday the New York-based media company had something positive to focus on as it prepares for what is expected to be a $500 million revenue day on Feb. 3, when CBS airs Super Bowl LIII from Atlanta.

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“We’ve been through a lot,” said CBS Corp. acting chief executive Joseph Ianniello said at the network’s media day for the National Football League’s marquee event. “We feel like a family. We are looking forward.”

CBS brought executives from all of its divisions along with its NFL play-by-play announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo to the network’s studios on Manhattan’s West Side where they detailed the company-wide effort on game day.

“It’s the highest level of drama in the whole world,” said Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys star who is calling the game for the first time.

Along with seven hours of pre-game coverage, Super Bowl LIII will also deliver its reliably massive audience lead into the premiere of a new reality competition show “The World’s Best” and a special edition of the network’s No. 1 late night show “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

CBS’ Washington-based public affairs program “Face The Nation” will air live from Atlanta and “CBS Sunday Morning” will have game-related stories.

At Thursday’s event, newly installed CBS News President Susan Zirinsky made her first public appearance in her new role to talk about her division’s involvement.

“For the entire week before the game CBS News will be sharing stories around the Super Bowl from Atlanta rolling out the red carpet, to the economic impact to the human stories about the athletes,” she said. “No subject is off the table.”

CBS News is also in talks with the White House about a game day interview with President Trump, which would be conducted by “Face The Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan.

Ianniello said the company’s revenue for the entire day should be “in the ballpark” of the $500 million NBC said it took in when it aired Super Bowl LII.

Sales have been strong for the game, with more than 90% of the commercials sold, according to Ianniello. CBS executives did not divulge an average price, but one person familiar with the ad sales situation at the network said the average price for a 30-second spot is a record high $5.25 million, up from $5.05 million last year.

CBS is not making a projection on the audience for Super Bowl LIII, but Ianniello said he is “quite confident” it will be more than 100 million viewers.

Super Bowl LII had an average audience of 103.4 million viewers on NBC according to Nielsen data — the lowest figure since 2009. It was still the 10th most watched TV program in history.

There is a reasonable expectation that the audience number should rebound this year as overall viewing of NFL games was up 6% during the regular season after two straight years of declines. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus attributes the gains to more competitive contests and the emergence of several young star quarterbacks. The controversy over players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem to protest social injustice also ebbed.

The number of Super Bowl viewers has slipped from an all time high of 114.4 million in 2015 as a growing number of consumers have been streaming the game online. CBS expects to benefit from that trend as it will have the game on its subscription service CBS All Access.

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