The Columbia Broadcasting System has offered, as the new decade begins, a simple instrument for measuring inflation.In announcing its rates for each one-minute TV commercial during Sunday's Super Bowl game, CBS also has brought into question the catchword phase that talk is cheap.
For advertisers wishing to get their message across to viewers in a 60-second sales pitch, the cost has been set at $468,000. These rates are not, as some may surely imagine, the product of disordered minds at CBS. It is a shrewd calculaton of what the marketplace will bear for a show that lately has delivered 100 million viewers. m
Advertisers, ranging from the Ford Motor Co. to the usual beer and tire people, consider this a bargin and have been lining up for spots on the show. All 22 minutes of commercial time have been sold out, fetching CBS a gross of more than $10 million, not counting the considerable take from the three hours of pregame and postgame stuff.
But the full minute commercial price seems a bit rich even for sponsors who travel in the company of Ford. Most of them are settling for the 30-second sales spiel at $234,000 a crack, on a gamble it will get the job done.
The price scale for Super Bowl 14 is so fascinating that a breakdown would seem to be in order, and calculators have been brought into the act. They seem to show that each commercial is costing the sponsor $7,804.03 for each second of air time. Extended further, there is the startling realization that the cost to adverisers is approximately $2,000 per uttered syllable. The act of exhaling is figured into this.
Sponsors are willing to take a big ticket on the game because of its pulling power. Super Bowl 12 (Dallas vs. Denver) drew the fourth largest TV audience in history, and Super Bowl 13 (Pittsburgh vs. Dallas) was the fifth most-watched show. The record setter was the eighth episode of "Roots" in 1977 followed by each of the two parts of "Gone With the Wind.'"
The game alone has been scaled to fetch CBS $10,151,721 in commercial charges. More loot will come from those three hours on the air before and after the game. NBC is standing aside this year because it is CBS's turn under the five-year NFL contract, now in its second year.
Other big Super Bowl numbers include the $18,000 that goes to each winning player and $9,000 that goes to each member of the losing team (not including previous playoff money earned), figures that could startle such old hands as the 1941 Chicago Bears and New York Giants. After beating the Giants at Wrigley Field for the NFL title that year, each Bear was paid $434.04. Each Giant took home a check for $288.70, and they all played both offense and defense, no special team nonsense.
Of course this was before television, but in the first Super Bowl game in 1967, TV wasn't such a big deal, either. Two networks bid for it and both televised it from California. According to the memory of Sol Taishoff, Broadcasting magazine publisher, CBS paid only $85,000 for the rights. "NBC, having fewer stations, got its rights cheaper, for between $65,000 and $70,000," he said.
No yearly bidding now for the Super Bowl TV rights. It is part of the multiyear network package that guarantees each of the 28 NFL clubs $5.1 million a year for a season total of $142.8 million. ABC seems to be content with its Monday night prime time exclusive, but may be writhing more that it shows at this time of the year.
CBS will do it this year with 31 cameras, upstaging NBC's 27 of last year, says Beano Cook, pridefully. He is a sports flack for the network and ventures also, "The only thing to command more cameras will be World War II or Mary Tyler Moore's smile."
The coverage will be a far-flung thing for CBS. In addition to the play-by-play team of Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier, and a slew of commentators, Lindsay Nelson will be in Stuttgart, Germany, doing a remotee on U.S. soldiers watching the game at midnight there; and there will be other pickups from a typical Pittsburgh bar and a Los Angeles club, in addition to the usual blimp, and a camera in a circling helicopter.
In their Pasadena booth, delivering their perceptions on signal, will be George Allen, Hank Stram and John Madden, picked for the job by the network's powers. Cook said, "We're big on coaches. We like to hear it from ex-coaches."
All of that and Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Jayne Kennedy, too, She is the replacement for Phyllis George, who decided two years ago there is more to life than looking pert and pretty in postgame commentaries and opted for marriage and, with that, a shot at the first laydship of Kentucky. She got her wish when her new husband was elected governor.
The Dallas Cowboys are sitting this one out, depriving the Super Bowl of the guaranteed excitement they always represent. The contest could even be a bore, with Pittsburgh a 10 1/2-point favorite over the punchless Rams. In which case, CBS would be unhappy, if not completely. Already in hand is all the dough from the sponsors and, as one proverb said, money cures melancholy.