CBS dreams of richest Sunday ever

A $200 million day? Super Bowl and “Survivor” ads could rake it in.

By Jennifer Weiner

Sunday night is shaping up to be one of the biggest – in terms of audience and ad revenue – in recent broadcast history.

By pairing the Super Bowl with Survivor: The Australian Outback, CBS, the network airing the game this year, has created potentially the most lucrative night ever in television.

The Super Bowl is traditionally the most-watched program of the year, drawing about 80 million viewers, said Greg Kasparian, a CBS vice president.

Sixty 30-second spots during Sunday’s Super Bowl, when the New York Giants will play the Baltimore Ravens, are going for an average of $2.3 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. (CBS would not confirm or deny that figure).

And half-minute spots during Survivor: The Australian Outback, a reprise of the networks’ super-successful reality show, will go for a cool million dollars. That, of course, is way higher than when the show debuted last summer. CBS then charged $300,000 for a 30-second spot during the regular run, and $600,000 for a 30-second spot during the finale.

Add all that together, factor in a six-hour pregame show, and you’re looking at the possibility that CBS could rake in more than $200 million in ad revenue for a single day.

Programs that rate high with viewers can charge top dollar for commercials.

For the network and advertisers, the best-case scenario would be for Survivor to hang on to better than half of the Super Bowl’s viewers, yielding an audience of 40 million to 50 million for the hour following the game, a feat that was last managed by NBC with an hour-long Friends after the 1996 Super Bowl.

“We know that Survivor is a really special program that has gotten all sorts of press, and we expect it to hold a significant percentage of that audience,” Kasparian said. Friends managed to retain almost 53 million, more than 56 percent of the Super Bowl viewers. “Without quoting numbers, those are the types of figures we’re looking for,” Kasparian said.

Advertisers say they’re willing to pay the tariffs because the combined one-two punch of the Super Bowl and Survivor guarantees more eyes watching one network than at any other time during the year. The only other event that comes close was last year’s Oscars, with 49 million viewers.

“We’re a new brand,” said Clay Owen, spokesman of Cingular Wireless, which will advertise during the pregame show and the game itself, and will be the only telecommunication company to advertise during Survivor’s entire run. “This gives us an opportunity to get our name out there . . . in front of a whole lot of eyeballs.”

And Super Bowl 2001 is particularly appealing, says Owen, because advertisers won’t have to compete with the clutter of dot-com advertisers, who crammed the airwaves when the game aired last year on ABC.

Target, the department store that was one of the sponsors of the original Survivor, was also happy to take a similar role in the second Survivor “because of the phenomenal success we saw with Survivor I,” company spokesman Patty Morris said.

Jennifer Weiner’s e-mail address is