Sean McManus’ Super Bowl Odyssey

With less than a week before Super Bowl 50, CBS is preparing to come off of the highest-rated AFC Championship in 29 years with for what will likely be the most-viewed telecast of all time on Feb. 7. The network’s 19th Super Bowl has already delivered the channel with all-time highs in ad pricing, up 11% over last year to hit the $5 million mark, according to reports. In addition, the company laid out is tech plans for the Broncos/Panthers, with elements that include a camera placed on the Needle at California’s Great America that will be solely focused on Levi’s Stadium; a Post Production Center that includes 11 fully loaded Avid suites, 1 V.O. booth and 10 graphics stations; three aerial camera systems; four sets, 70 game cameras, 256 microphones, and a 65,000 square foot Super Bowl compound.

Pregame show, The Super Bowl Today, begins at 2p with host James Brown, with the action starting at 6:30p as Jim Nantz and Phil Simms handle microphone duties, with Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn reporting on the game. Cynopsis Sports chatted with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, who has overseen six Super Bowls as Executive Producer, about the long ties between the game and the network, advertisers and CBS Sports’ upcoming redesign.

McManus on CBS’ history with the Super Bowl: The NFL and the Super Bowl have always been very important touchstones for CBS. We were there for the first Super Bowl, we will be there for the 50th Super Bowl. We’ve had some unbelievable experiences with the game itself and we consider it part of our heritage, just as we do with the NFL. When you think back to some of the games that Pat Summerall and John Madden did, there’s a legacy there and an association with CBS that I think is very valuable for both the NFL and for the CBS Corporation.

On a favorite memory: One of my most vivid memories is the kickoff for Super Bowl 35 in Tampa. When we kicked off, that was the first Super Bowl we did after we reacquired the NFL having lost it to FOX in 1994, and that was an affirmation and a culmination of a company-wide effort to bring the NFL back to the network. I never felt it was going to be or feel real until we produced a Super Bowl.

On also being an Executive Producer for the telecast: I’ve always loved production and started out as a production assistant at ABC Sports. I love the production of NFL games and I just try to provide an overview for our production teams. I like being in the truck. When I’m negotiating a deal for Thursday Night Football that involves our production or when I’m overseeing other parts of our NFL programming at CBS, being the Executive Production and having my hand in the production helps me to get a feeling of what the priorities are for the product and how we can best utilize those priorities.

On tech innovations: In Tampa, we utilized EyeVision for the first time, which was a Matrix-like view of the field and plays. We’ve not got a better version of that at this year’s Super Bowl. We’ve got cameras that will give us a 360 degree view of the stadium, which will give us a full moveable look at plays where you can look at the plays from any perspective. We’ve also worked hard to perfect the Pylon Cam, which we and ESPN have used very effectively, and we are now going to add audio to it. So technology has always been an important part of our NFL and Super Bowl coverage and this is no exception. We pioneered the use of super high speed cameras both in golf as well as with the NFL and I think you’ll see more high speed cameras at this game than you’ve seen at any other CBS game since the last time we carried the Super Bowl.

On Super Bowl advertisers: The demand is always there for the sponsors and despite the fact that it is a very expensive buy, it is also a very efficient buy. It’s very rare for us to ever have a sponsor say that they didn’t get the value they thought they were going to get. They always get the value. It is the highest-profile media property in the world and there are certain sponsors for whom it provides the perfect platform. Fortunately, there are enough sponsors every year to make it the high revenue-producing day in all of television.

On the new CBS Sports redesign: As much as we love our current logo, we’ve been using it for 35 years. We thought that since we were redoing our graphics look, including our insert graphics, animations and openings, we thought it was time to look for a new potential logo for CBS Sports. We worked with Troika and they gave us almost a 100 different designs and we narrowed that down to five or six we liked, before narrowing it down to the new logo that we will be debuting during Super Bowl week. It’s clean, it’s modern looking but it also has the traces of the great tradition that it CBS Sports. So there isn’t a better time than Super Bowl 50 to premier a new look and we are very excited about that.

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