In February 2013, CBS will televise Super Bowl XLVII from New Orleans and take their turn on the three year Super Bowl rotation with NBC and Fox. The Super Bowl is the single most watched event not just in sports, but on American television. The game is a gold mine for the networks not just for the millions upon millions of viewers flocking to their airwaves, but for the invaluable promotion for other shows and events on the network.
In addition, CBS will take the Super Bowl bump to a place it's never been before – boosting a national cable sports network.
This is a first for the three major networks in this new age of startup national sports channels. NBC chose not to offer any extensive Super Bowl coverage last year as NBC Sports Network had just been rebranded a month prior to Super Bowl XLVI. The last time CBS televised the Super Bowl in February 2009, CBSSN was still CBS College Sports. And, Fox still has no national cable sports channel to speak of… at least not yet.
CBS has announced plans to offer wall-to-wall Super Bowl coverage on CBS Sports Network including an extended Super Bowl postgame show after network coverage goes off the air.
In the lead up to Super Bowl XLVII, CBS Sports Network will have five hours of coverage each night from New Orleans. Inside the Super Bowl will air Monday-Friday from 4-6 ET from radio row and Greg Gumbel will host Super Bowl Live (apparently there will be some difference between the two shows) from 7-9 ET Tuesday-Friday. Monday night CBS will air their NFL Monday QB in the same timeslot. Sandwiched in between at the 6 o'clock hour will be an hour long Rome with Jim Rome.
The postgame show after Super Bowl XLVII will feature the full NFL Today set of James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe, and Boomer Esiason. The Super Bowl will have more than twice as many viewers (~110 million) as people who even get CBS Sports Network (less than 50 million), so it'll be very interesting to see just how many viewers make the leap to the network postgame instead sticking around CBS or going the default route to ESPN. I'm sure a great number of folks watching Super Bowl XLVII will learn of the existence of CBS Sports Network for the first time through this postgame show. Just by the sheer number of Super Bowl watchers, that postgame should be the most watched show in CBS Sports Network history.
This amped up cable coverage shows CBS is at least somewhat serious in making something out of their cable sports channel. The additions of Jim Rome and Doug Gottlieb, the launching of CBS Sports Radio, and this Super Bowl week coverage are signs the network wants to challenge the likes of ESPN, Fox, and NBC on a multi-platform level. However, as we've chronicled, CBSSN sits far behind even NBCSN in distribution, awareness, and live sports rights on the television side. CBS desperately needs to develop more consistent in-demand programming, especially in the live sports department, to even think about competing wtih NBCSN and the future Fox Sports 1.
The true test will be whether or not CBS gives those new viewers from Super Bowl week a reason to stick around and come back to the network. As the Olympics showed with NBCSN's ratings coming back to earth in the months since, that's the biggest challenge for these startup networks.