Negotiations between Disney and Omnicom Group's media giant were ongoing since early May but last week concluded in a one-year cross platform deal that includes all of Disney properties.
Third of inventory
OMD has agreed to buy about one-third of the inventory in the Super Bowl -- around 20 30-second commercials -- executives said. OMD has not agreed to a unit price yet. Media agency executives expect those prices will be slightly below $2 million for each commercial.
Neither OMD nor ABC executives would comment.
Why the rush?
Typically, Super Bowl TV networks begin to sell time in the game months after the upfront. Executives wondered why ABC Sports would sell the event so soon when the upfront market was unexpectedly strong. ABC might have gotten better pricing by waiting.
This year, ABC and ESPN will air games from the four major sports leagues as it picks up from NBC rights to air the National Basketball Association's games, playoffs and finals. Many OMD USA clients have a sports focus, concentrating ad dollars with NFL football in particular. ABC airs Monday Night Football, and ESPN airs Sunday Night Football. The agency typically buys 15 to 20 Super Bowl spots every year. Last year, OMD's Super Bowl clients included Pepsi-Cola Co., Visa International, FedEx Corp., Masterfoods USA, Charles Schwab & Co., Universal Pictures, and MGM Distribution Co.
Anheuser-Busch Cos., which is not represented by OMD, is customarily the biggest Super Bowl advertiser. Last year, the brewer bought 10 30-second spots in the game. Anheuser-Busch makes multiyear Super Bowl and NFL deals for its commercials timed to when the NFL strikes its TV programming deals with the networks. With OMD's deal, and if Anheuser-Busch does buy its typical amount of spots, ABC will be about 50% sold for the Super Bowl in 2003.
Bad press if ads don't sell
"It didn't sell well last year, why not sell a few units early?" asked one veteran media agency executive. "It's better now than getting bad press at the end when you have inventory to sell."
While not all the specifics of the OMD-Disney deal are known, executives say the ABC Television Network will get $500 million of the $1 billion, $300 million of which will be targeted to prime time; ESPN will get $150 million to $200 million; and Lifetime Television (partly owned by major equity partner Hearst Corp.) will get $75 million.
So far, executives say ABC Sports' prime-time sports programming will pull in $250 million in upfront deals, which is also earlier than when ABC typically sells its sports inventory. ABC Sports' goal for this year, thanks in part to the new addition of the NBA, is $700 million. Prime time includes Monday Night Football, the Bowl Championship Series and the Super Bowl.