Fox Bowls over advertisers

Sells 90% inventory well before game

Fox has sold north of 90% of its in-game Super Bowl ad inventory, or about 55 of 61 units, nearly three months before the Feb. 3 telecast.

That sales pace is in stark contrast to the past several years, when the broadcast network airing the Super Bowl scrambled to sell its in-game commercial inventory right up until game time.

Last year, CBS had sold only 42 in-game units by mid-January, and media buyers say it's been many years since a network has reached a Super Bowl sellout level as early as Fox this year.

The Super Bowl has become a hard sell for all the NFL's TV rights-holders during the past few years because of the pressure to produce high-quality creative commercials, on top of the hefty 30-second spot price, peaking at about $2.7 million this year.

But Fox has offered two value-added incentives that have helped motivate advertisers, especially movie companies and automakers, Fox executive vp sports Neil Mulcahy said.

A deal between Fox and MySpace will enable advertisers to have their commercials placed on a special Super Bowl site on MySpace, where the advertisers also can add special video, like extended movie trailers. The MySpace site will be promoted during the telecast to drive viewers to the site.

Fox also will create a pregame red carpet arrival area for celebrities attending the game that will be hosted by "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest. Movie companies buying in-game spots will be able to parade the stars of their upcoming movies before the cameras.

Mulcahy said these value-added programs have resulted in movie companies significantly increasing their in-game presence. He said the movie category has five times as many spots as last year. The value-added offerings have also been a hit with automakers.

And Mulcahy said interactive companies also have jumped into the game in a bigger way than in recent years. announced in October that it will be advertising for the first time.

John Consoli is a senior editor at MediaWeek.