With the kickoff to the new NFL season just weeks away, "It's a darn good time to be in this business," said CBS Sports President Sean McManus.
Speaking at the annual NFL on CBS Media Day, McManus admitted that there had been "a lot of nervous moments" as negotiations between the league and its players over a new collective bargaining agreement threatened the season.
"There was doubt whether we would have a pre-season, or a regular season, or miss two weeks," McManus said. "Now it's great to focus on producing games."
McManus noted that all of the NFL's broadcast partners had strong seasons last year. CBS in particular had the most viewers for its AFC package in 23 years and the best post-season in 15 years, highlighted by the most-watched AFC championship game ever. "You forget what an incredible ratings season it was for everyone," he said.
The high ratings coincided with a strong ad market in which advertisers bought spots in NFL games in anticipation that the games would be played.
CBS is well sold, but still has commercial inventory in its fourth-quarter games, as well as the post-season, says John Bogusz, executive VP for sports sales at CBS.
The NFL is a unique property, with rising ratings and live viewership, so at a time of economic uncertainty, "how could you not buy the NFL," added Tony Taranto, senior VP of sports ad sales.
Taranto said Chrysler has returned as an NFL sponsor, joining a strong auto category. He also expects that Anheuser-Busch, which outbid MillerCoors to be the official brewer of the NFL, to step up its football efforts.
For this year's games, CBS will be employing more high-speed cameras, said Harold Bryant, executive producer and VP for production at CBS Sports. The NFL is also allowing the broadcaster to mic players at the line of scrimmage, allowing them to pick up better sound from the trenches.