On Sunday night, Mike Benson gets a little over seven minutes to cap off weeks of work.
The CBS marketing chief will use promo time allotted to Paramount Global during the Super Bowl to turbocharge a broad array of campaigns he has set in motion in the past few months aimed at getting viewers excited about one of the most unorthodox TV seasons in history.
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“Think about what we are up against here,” says Benson, a veteran of the business of promoting programming who has also worked at ABC and Amazon. “It’s the first time going back to 1954 that a broadcast network is launching a season outside of the fall” due to the recent Hollywood talent strikes.
CBS will use the Super Bowl to tout not just the new drama “Tracker,” which gets its debut right after the end of the game, but also “Ghosts,” “Fire Country,” “So Help Me Todd” and “Young Sheldon.” Some of that promo time will also be allocated to the free video-on-demand outlet Pluto as well as Paramount+, all part of parent company Paramount Global.
The marketing tactics are crucial for Paramount, which has been viewed as an acquisition candidate by Wall Street and needs to demonstrate its prowess in getting people to watch its content in sizable numbers. “The exclusive airing of Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday will be a bright spot for the company at a time when Paramount Global remains under pressure due to its transition to and competition in streaming from its declining linear operations,” says Neil Begley, a media analyst and senior vice president at Moody’s, in a note. “Also, we believe that more eyes on the game than average are likely given that we expect higher numbers of non-traditional fans watching for Taylor Swift sightings, which should be a boon for advertisers.”
And though CBS is not paying directly for the time, it can’t be squandered. It’s valuable. The network has been seeking between $6.5 million and more than $7 million for a 30-second spot in the Big Game.
The real takeaway for Super Bowl viewers, says Benson, is that CBS will debut the bulk of its programs in the days following the game as part of a “good old-fashioned Premiere Week.”
The hope is that the Super Bowl will serve as a final marketing salvo after months of work aimed at getting people excited about CBS’ schedule of programs. Since the official end of strikes by actors and writers in fall, CBS has run recaps helping them to remember where their favorite series left off in 2023. During the NFL playoffs, CBS ran “first look” footage that offered viewers sneak previews that were called “sneak ends.” Some featured actors like Queen Latifah, Cedric the Entertainer and Iain Armitage speaking directly to the audience — and not in character.
CBS has also run promos that tout its Monday- and Tuesday-night schedules instead of individual shows, something easier to do since a suite of “NCIS” series run on Monday and three “FBI” programs run on Tuesdays.
“There is a lot we have to get done,” he says. And, at least on Super Bowl Sunday, just a little time to do it.
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