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Survivor's Pregame Show
Super Bowl ratings, ad sales not Survivor-like

By Joe Concha
Jan 24, 2001

The highly anticipated "Survivor 2: The Australian Outback" premiers on CBS immediately following the Super Bowl. With this year's NFL Championship offering of the Ravens and Giants, some industry experts feel that the network should consider running Survivor before the game.

If Survivor 2 aired first, more viewers might stick around to watch a football game that should be as high scoring as a Yankees-Orioles game.

If you enjoy 6-6 field goal kicking duels, a Giants-Ravens matchup may be just what you're looking for. Forget the fact that the Giants put up more than 500 yards of offense and 41 points on that arena team from Minnesota. The only statistic to remember about this postseason is that Baltimore allowed 16 points in three games, and the Giants yielded 10 points in two games. Using those figures, the Giants and Ravens have each allowed an average five points per game.

If form holds, Super Bowl XXXV will be decided by a field goal in overtime after 5-5 tie in regulation.

Or more appropriately, by a safety.

But at least we'll see a game worth watching after halftime.

As far as ratings and ad revenue are concerned, does the promise of a game featuring sacks and field goals over bombs and touchdowns play a role in the ratings game?

The price of 30-second Super Bowl spots will continue to grow no matter who is playing, according to Mark DiMassimo, president and executive creative director of DiMassimo Brand Advertising in New York City. "Prices continue to climb at a rate that is not necessarily consistent with the "big games" ratings delivery," he said. "Over the past three years, CPMs (cost per minute ads) have grown at an average of 20 percent."

No one predicted a Baltimore-New York Super Bowl, just as no one had the Titans - Rams matchup last year. Remember what all of the experts were saying before the season began? Seemingly 99 percent of all NFL prognosticators said the Colts or Titans would meet the Rams, Redskins or Bucs in this Super Bowl.

Instead, CBS is left with two low-scoring defensive teams separated by only 200 miles. Many believe a bicoastal Raiders-Giants Super Bowl would have been the best scenario from a ratings standpoint. CBS has gone down to the wire selling advertising spots for the game. One reason why advertising space didn't sell as quickly as it had in recent years might be the absence of dot-com advertisers. This year, only , and E-Trade remain from the 17 Internet companies that bought advertising last year.

"They advertised on the Super Bowl because they could," says Michael Drapkin, president of Drapkin Technologies, a New York-based consulting service. "Now, startups and dot-coms are under a great deal of scrutiny to show a path to profitability."

"Oh, well. it was fun while it lasted," sighs Drapkin. "No more obscenely expensive holiday parties, either."

Add expensive Super Bowl viewing parties to that list as well.

History shows it doesn't matter much that one of teams participating is in the country's largest television market. The Mets and Yankees proved that the Big Apple playing in a championship doesn't equal Survivor-like ratings.

A Super Bowl with two teams having losing records the year before has not occurred since 1982, when Joe Montana's 49ers played Cincinnati the first time. San Francisco's 26-21 win at the Silverdome is still the highest rated Super Bowl ever with a whopping 49.1 rating, despite that the game didn't showcase many stars or popular teams, at least at the time (in contrast, Rams-Titans posted a 43.2).

Passive football fans may not be very familiar with most of the players on the Giants and Ravens rosters, but if history is any indicator, a competitive game can cure anything.

Still, expectations for this Super Bowl are as low as CBS's was for Survivor — a program that was the football equivalent of a third-string quarterback sitting on the bench, whose only chance of seeing the field is by injury or poor performance by the starter and backup. Survivor used its opportunity to the fullest the way Kurt Warner used his last season.

Remember, the St. Louis-Tennessee Super Bowl in Atlanta was a offensively- challenged 16-6 game going into the fourth quarter until the incredible final three minutes turned the game into the NFL version of the movie "The Sixth Sense" — an average movie made great by an unbelievable ending.

Despite what you may have read, reports of the economic death of this Super Bowl may turn out to be greatly exaggerated.

Joe Concha writes a weekly commentary for Send your questions and comments to [email protected] .  

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