CBS hopes there is more to the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament in the next millennium than just a jump ball over national advertising price increases.
While the network was inking its pricey $6 billion NCAA deal last week, CBS was also putting the final touches on its advertising sales effort for the March 2000 event, which will give CBS only modest 8% to 10% price increases, according to media executives.
NCAA 30-second unit advertising prices are now in the $600,000 range for the championship game and $40,000 to $50,000 for the early round contests. Media executives said CBS is virtually sold out for the 63-game contest next year.
DOUBLING RIGHTS FEES
The slight price hikes won't make a dent in the $6 billion, 11-year deal CBS agreed to last week, said industry analysts, which will double CBS' yearly rights fee to $545 million. CBS is counting on cable, Internet, radio and publishing rights--as well as that valuable NCAA airtime to promote its prime-time shows--to bring in more dollars. In spreading the wealth, CBS might be allowed to air early round NCAA games on, TNN, for example, which has been adding programming targeting a young male audience.
After a flurry of network presentations last week, CBS, the current rights holder, won the multiyear agreement to continue its coverage of the 64-team men's hoops tournament through 2013. It's current pact with the NCAA ends in 2002.
CBS will pay an average of $545 million per year under the agreement, which the NCAA has the right to renegotiate after eight years. The network has paid an average of $237 million annually under its current contract.
The deal, however, gives CBS the opportunity to do much more than just present the men's tournament. Starting in the 2002-03 academic year, CBS will hold exclusive marketing and TV rights for all NCAA championships. Both men's and women's hoops tournaments will be included, except those currently owned by ESPN and Trans World International, a sports programming and packaging company. CBS will have exclusive coverage rights to these events on radio and the Internet.
CBS' successful NCAA bid came almost exactly a week after Fox beat it and ABC out on the TV rights to Nascar. Fox and its FX cable network secured an eight-year deal with Nascar along with a six-year deal signed by NBC and its cable partner, TBS. The entire pact totals $2.8 billion.
"Nascar was important to us," said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports. "But we don't place Nascar in same category as the NCAA men's basketball tournament."
Mr. Frankel is a reporter for Electronic Media.
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.