(Forbes.com 5/9/2012) The 2012 college football season doesn’t officially begin for several months, but CBS Sports has already begun selling advertising spots for next season’s SEC football games. The network is reportedly well ahead of competitors ESPN and Fox, which are in discussions with existing partners but have yet to test the open market.
But what is perhaps most striking is that CBS is reportedly using the Super Bowl as leverage in negotiations with prospective SEC advertisers. In February, I predicted that Super Bowl ad rates will double within the next decade, partly because the networks will need to cover the increased rights fees for carrying NFL games. CBS has the rights to the 2013 Super Bowl, and leveraging those rights into attracting more sponsors to SEC games is a great way to wring even more value out of the most popular televised event of the year.
CBS has also raised its ad rates, which shouldn’t be very surprising given the SEC’s incredible popularity and on-field performances in recent seasons. Last year’s national championship was an SEC showdown between Alabama and LSU, and the conference projects to be just as competitive next season with Arkansas and Georgia expected to advance. There has also been talk of CBS and the SEC renegotiating their TV rights agreement, with some predicting it could be worth as much as $5 billion over 15 years.
The conference’s popularity can also be seen in the attendances for the recent slate of spring games. Sports Business Daily has the attendance numbers for most of the games, and though the Ohio State Buckeyes lead the way with a spring game attendance of 81,112, SEC teams make up eight of the top 13 spots. Number two on the list is Alabama, and the defending national champion had 78,526 fans in attendance at its spring game. The Bill O’Brien-led Penn State Nittany Lions round out the top three with an attendance of 60,000. Next season will be the first since 1966 that Penn State will be coached by someone other than Joe Paterno.
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