CBS sells 65% of ads for Super Bowl

Prices hovering around $2.7 mil per 30-second spot

CBS has sold 65% of the available commercial spots for next year's Super Bowl, according to sources, an impressive amount considering the still-dire economic circumstances. At this time last year, NBC had sold 85% of inventory, but CBS has had to battle the full force of the financial crisis that began a year ago.

CBS has sold about 40 of the 62 30-second spots on offer for Super Bowl XLIV sources said.

So far, prices for the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7 in Miami, are in the range of $2.7 million-$2.8 million per spot, which is flat to slightly lower than what NBC achieved for the 2009 telecast and flat to slightly higher than what Fox did for the 2008 game.

Last year, NBC averaged $2.8 million-$2.9 million per 30-second spot; some advertisers paid $3 million. In 2008, Fox averaged about $2.7 million for spots in the Super Bowl.

Sources at CBS said pricing for the 2010 game is "in line" with what NBC received last year. Buyers said that was feasible, depending on how "in line" is defined.

"Maybe for some of the inventory," said Larry Novenstern, executive vp and director of national electronic media at Publicis Groupe's Optimedia. "But for the 12 advertisers who paid $3 million last year, I don't think so."

Said JoAnn Ross, president of network sales at CBS: "I'm very comfortable with where we are right now. We've had a lot of activity in the last month." She declined to be more specific.

Indeed, one buyer indicated that CBS is telling potential customers that leadoff spots in pods (known as "A" positions) are fully booked through the first half of the game.

The network also has made significant progress selling the pregame show, which will airs from 1-5:30 p.m. Eastern time. Sources said most of the roughly half-dozen so-called "presented by" sponsorships during that time have been purchased.

Meanwhile, most of the major media shops are close to wrapping up their regular-season NFL deals with NBC, Fox, CBS and ESPN. Regular-season pricing, per the buyers, is said to be down 1%-3%, depending on the deal.

"The NFL marketplace is surprisingly healthy," said Kevin Collins, senior vp national broadcast at Interpublic Group's Initiative. Top NFL games, he said, deliver a 10-plus household rating week in and week out. "That kind of consistency is hard to get in primetime," he said.

Strong categories this year are said to include quick-service restaurants, insurance and retail.

Confirmed advertisers for the 2010 Super Bowl include Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has a multiyear deal for Super Bowl spots, as well as CareerBuilder.com and Pepsi.

A-B InBev usually is the largest single advertiser in the game, buying upward of 10 units throughout the telecast. Reps didn't return calls seeking comment on 2010 plans.

CareerBuilder is implementing a user-generated component to its Super Bowl marketing plan. The job-placement site launched a contest inviting consumers to create and submit videos to be considered for incorporation into its ad in the game. The winner gets $100,000 and the runner-up $50,000.

"This is part of a new direction CareerBuilder is taking in its marketing strategy that builds on the company's longtime investments in social media and user-generated content," the company said. A rep confirmed that it will air one spot during the game.

Frank Cooper, CMO of portfolio brands at Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, confirmed Pepsi's participation in the 2010 game two weeks ago.

The automobile category remains soft, given the troubles that have beset the industry in the past year. But General Motors still is considering advertising during the game, according to a rep there.
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