Fox ahead of game in Super Bowl ad sales


NEW YORK -- Fox has sold north of 90% of its in-game Super Bowl inventory, or about 55 of the 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 in February.

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 National Football League TV rights-holders over the past few years because of the pressure to produce high-quality creative commercials, on top of the hefty price per 30-second spot, peaking at about $2.7 million this year.

But Fox this year has offered advertisers two innovations as value added incentives which helped motivate particularly movie companies and automakers to jump in in a bigger way, Fox executive vp sports Neil Mulcahy said.

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

Fox will also create a Red Carpet arrival area for celebrities attending the Super Bowl that will be hosted during the pregame telecast by "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest. Movie companies buying in-game Super Bowl spots, as a value added by Fox, will be able to parade its stars of upcoming movies on the red carpet and be asked a question about the movie by Seacrest.

Mulcahy said the value-added programs have resulted in movie companies significantly increasing their Super Bowl in-game presence. He said 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 have also jumped into the game in a bigger way than in recent years. announced in October earlier this month that it will be advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time.

"The interactive category is heating up like it was in the late 1990s, and more online players might be among those getting into the Super Bowl game," one buyer said.

While Mulcahy would not name individual advertisers, Mediaweek learned that media agency OMD, which traditionally had numerous clients in the game, but more recently had many of those sit out, is back with a larger number this year.

Anheuser-Busch, which has a multiyear deal as the exclusive beer advertiser in the Super Bowl, will again run eight to 10 in-game spots.

Also working in Fox's favor has been the tight ad inventory situation in the TV marketplace, particularly on the broadcast entertainment side, that has apparently motivated advertisers to jump in earlier rather than risk being shut out.

The sports marketplace advertising units have also been tight with most of the NFL TV rights-holders close to being sold out into the playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl.

Mulcahy said sales for the NFC Championship Game on Fox also is well sold, with only two units left. And Mulcahy said only one unit remains for the 6 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Super Bowl pregame show.

Also, there appears to be more ad clients who want to use the Super Bowl to promote new products or to just make a promotional splash on a bigger level at the start of next year.

"This is a significantly tighter broadcast marketplace than it was at this point last year," said a media buyer. "Because the Super Bowl is such a unique event and has such a large audience, advertisers are thinking they cannot wait to get their money down. The feeling right now is if they wait, they could be shut out and they don't want to take that chance."

Mulcahy said he has six in-game units left, there are about 10 advertisers interested in those units.

"We expect that we will sell out those units soon," he said.

John Consoli is a senior editor at MediaWeek.