The expanded, two-hour Selection Sunday college basketball telecast on CBS may have been undermined by online leaks, but advertisers, like bracketologists everywhere, are still eagerly awaiting this week's start of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament.
Overall TV ad revenue has already set another record, as B&C has reported, but an interesting aspect of the demand is how much of it comes from existing NCAA corporate sponsors. Their share of total spending has reached about 50% of the record ad revenue taken in by CBS and Turner, John Bogusz, executive VP of sports ad sales at CBS, tells B&C. That's up markedly from about 40% last year.
Each of the corporate partners have multi-year ad deals and include NCAA Corporate Champion partners AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola, along with 14 NCAA Corporate Partners, among them Allstate, Amazon, Bing, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Enterprise, Infiniti, LG Electronics, Lowe's, Nabisco, Northwestern Mutual, Hershey's Reese's, Unilever and UPS.
Bogusz says moving the championship game from CBS to TBS this year did not negatively impact sales because the tournament is primarily sold as part of packages. But he says there are still "a few windows" during the tournament that still have some ad inventory left, including a couple of ad units in the Saturday night, April 2 semi-final games and the April 4 championship game, both on TBS.
Jon Diament, executive VP of Turner Sports ad sales, says, "there has been zero resistance from advertisers to buying the championship game on TBS instead of CBS."
While Bogusz and Diament wouldn't comment on ad pricing for remaining avails, sources familiar with the situation say CBS/Turner are looking for about $1.5 million each for whatever 30-second spots remain in the TBS championship game telecast.
All of the sponsors of last year's pregame, halftime, bridge and postgame shows—which will be televised from the CBS studios in New York and Turner studios in Atlanta—are also returning. Infiniti will again host the pregame shows, AT&T the halftime shows, Capital One will sponsor Tournament Central in between games and Buick will host the postgame shows.
For the fifth straight year, Northwestern Mutual will serve as presenting sponsor of the "First Four" games on Turner's truTV, two of which will be played on Tuesday, March 15, with the other two being played the following day.
In addition to being able to watch the games live on CBS and Turner networks TBS, TNT and truTV, fans will also be able to watch the games digitally streamed and also via the NCAA March Madness Live app across 12 platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku players and Roku TV.
AT&T, Capital One and Coke Zero will be co-presenting sponsors of the March Madness Live streaming, and there will be different sponsors for streaming on different types of mobile devices. Buick, Capital One and Coke Zero will cosponsor the iOS device streaming, while AT&T, Capital One and Infiniti will co-sponsor the Android streaming.
Capital One will sponsor streaming on Roku, while AT&T will be the digital sponsor on Windows.
The three NCAA Corporate Champions, AT&T, Coke and Capital One, will again sponsor the NCAA March Madness Music Festival, a three-day outdoor event in the downtown area of the Final Four city of Houston. Maroon 5 will headline the Capital One JamFest on Sunday, April 3. That performance will also be featured during the iHeartRadio Music Awards live from Los Angeles across TBS, TNT and truTV at 8 p.m.
For the second year, Bing will be the "Official Data Bracket" partner and "Bracketologist" for NCAA March Madness. Bing Predict will combine search data and social sentiment with access to over a decade of the NCAA's historical data, plus stats on team history, tournament performances, win-loss ratios and home vs. away stats to create tournament data for fans.
Bing Predict is also making its picks for the tournament. Last year it was among the top 30% of all brackets picked. The Bing picks will be available online immediately after the Selection Sunday show on Bing.com and NCAA.com.
LG Electronics is also planning to release a series of exclusive stats related to uniform color. The stats, verified by Elias Sports Bureau, will reveal performance data by uniform color since the tournament moved to the 64-team format in 1985. ESPN's Jay Bilas will serve as the official LG Color Commentator for the feature.
For the third year, both semi-final games, and for the first time, the championship game, will be televised on Turner's TNT and truTV in what is called "Teamcasts." Viewers will be able to watch the regular telecast on TBS while telecasts on the other two networks will feature team-specific coverage tailored to fans' favorite teams. Announcers will be different, but the commercials in all the games will be the same and the ratings will be combined for advertiser ratings guarantee purposes.
Ad sales for the tournament set another record this year, as B&C was first to report. Ad pricing for the TV games were up in the mid- to high-single digit range and ad revenues are up double digits. Some of that is because a second hour has been added to the tournament selection show on March 13.
Also helping increase the overall ad revenue were digital ad sales. This year the networks took in about 20% more digital ad revenue than they did for last year's tournament, boosting the total to more than $100 million.
The most prolific ad spending categories for the linear TV game telecasts are automotive, financial, tech, food/restaurants and telecommunications. The biggest spending ad categories for the digital and streaming telecasts are auto, QSRs, insurance, beverages and soft drinks and telecom.
CBS will broadcast 21 games throughout the tournament, including the Elite 8 and Sweet 16 games and the first and second rounds. Turner will televise 46 total games across its three networks. TBS will televise 21 games, including the National Championship game and the two semi-final games, as well as Elite 8, Sweet 16 and first and second round games.
TruTV will televise 13 games, including the First Four and games in the first and second rounds, as well as Team Stream coverage of the National Championship and Final Four semi-final games.
TNT will televise 12 games, including first and second round games and the Team Stream presentations.
Last year's NCAA tournament across the four networks averaged 11.3 million viewers per telecast, up 8% from 2014, and was the most-watched NCAA tournament in 22 years, according to Nielsen data.
The national championship game on CBS averaged 28.3 million total viewers, up 33% from the 2014 championship game and was the most-viewed NCAA title game in 18 years.
The two semi-final games on TBS averaged 18.9 million total viewers, up 35% over 2014 and the most-watched semi-final doubleheader in 19 years.
Last year's NCAA March Madness Live generated 80.7 million live video streams and 17.8 million hours of live video consumption during the tournament. The live video streams were up 17% over 2014, while the live video consumption was up 19%. March Madness Live also delivered a record for the national championship game with 3.4 million live video streams and one million hours of live video consumption.
The tournament also grossed a record 350 million total social impressions across Facebook and Twitter, a 45% increase over 2014.
Expect all of those numbers to grow this year.