After Years of Increases: Super Bowl Ad Rates Stall

By: Brian Gordon, Media Buying Supervisor

The Super Bowl, the Big Game, the benchmark for television rating heights and commercial costs. But does the game still carry the same weight for advertisers that it once did? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because it is still the “biggest pond” in which to fish and advertisers still wanting to make a big splash or big launch or release still have this great platform to use. No, because it’s not the rating juggernaut that it used to be, although still huge. People and advertisers are still interested in it, but not to the extreme levels they used to be.

For this year’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, CBS is selling a: 30 spot for around $5.3 million, which is somewhat flat to last year’s Super Bowl costs, where NBC averaged $5.24 million, according to Kantar Media.

The Super Bowl is still the biggest rating draw of the year, and networks still use the time slot right after it to launch their next big hit, with CBS launching a new Reality Competition show this year called “The World’s Best”. People still watch it, many people for the commercials alone, parties are still held to watch it, and companies still flock to its huge audience, but what is happening to that audience? It has peaked also, with 2015’s game being the top rating figure topping out at 114 million viewers. In 2016, the viewers dropped to a little under 112 million and 2017 dropped even further to just above 111 million viewers and 2018 dropped even further, achieving the fewest viewers for the Big Game since 2009, coming in at 103 million viewers.

But it’s still usually the most watched show of the year, and CBS has sold over 90% of its inventory, as of last week, so advertisers are still coming to the “big pond”. People are still watching it, just not as many, and advertisers are still attracted to it, they just don’t want to pay as much now. So, will this year’s matchup turn the figures around or will they drop again? One thing in CBS’s corner is the 2 teams come from 2 of the largest TV markets in the country (Boston and Los Angeles), so that could help the numbers, but will that be enough? My guess is it won’t be.