Breaking with tradition, Fox Sports advertising executives said they have created a major "event" by selling large TV commercial packages to four, possibly five, advertisers in an unprecedented 7-hour pregame extravaganza starting at 11 a.m. (ET).
PREGAME AD RECORD
About $45 million of the $150 million will be garnered from the pregame programming -- the most ever for pregame advertising revenue.
Blockbuster Entertainment Group and Pizza Hut have bought major packages in the pregame programming, according to industry executives. Blockbuster said it bought a whopping 15 units -- one per half-hour leading up to the game -- as well as one ad in the game itself, via Doner, Southfield, Mich.
Pizza Hut has a similar multispot package, which is intended to lure
hungry fans with images of pizza -- a common afternoon sports TV staple -- while watching the day's football-related events.
The chain bought an undetermined but significant amount of pre-game spots, as well as spots during the game. BBDO Worldwide, New York, is Pizza Hut's agency.
Those advertisers also will get a number of on-air billboards and other value-added entitlements for the pregame programming.
In structuring the Super Bowl XXXIII pregame programming, Fox executives said marketers that buy multiple units can lay claim to valuable audience real estate, a sizable adult 18-to-49-year-old demographic that's available all day long.
In previous years, Super Bowl advertisers didn't buy pregame time in this way; marketers that purchased pricey Super Bowl game spots also bought cheaper pregame spots to lower the overall costs of their campaigns.
"It's a traditional approach to sell programming as an event when a network wants to get a premium for something," said Gene DeWitt, president-CEO of DeWitt Media, New York. "They realized advertisers were getting lower [costs per thousand] by buying spots in the pregame. This is a way to prevent advertisers from outflanking them."
"The networks need to do all they can to offset the huge sticker prices from the [National Football League]," said Tim Spengler, senior VP-general manager of national broadcast for Western International Media Corp., West Hollywood, Calif. "This is the one place they can make up the huge cost."
REPLACES IN-GAME REVENUES
All this activity will help Fox partially defray the expensive telecast rights deal with the NFL, inked in 1998. Fox agreed to pay $550 million a year for eight seasons to retain coverage of National Conference games.
Fox has been looking for ways not only to increase revenue but replace in-game sponsored segments that were a revenue generator for the networks in previous years. The new NFL broadcast contracts eliminated in-game sponsored segments.
"Super Bowls are a very important part of the overall high revenue potential of the NFL contract," said a Fox spokesman, who declined further comment.
Most advertisers, according to various executives, ponied up $1.6 million for each 30-second spot in this year's Super Bowl game, giving the network $93 million in advertising revenue for the game itself.
Fox's 7 hours of pregame coverage is a jump of 41/2 hours of programming when compared with NBC's pregame coverage last year, which began at 3:30 p.m (ET). The actual game is slated to start at 6:18 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.
Grabbing $45 million from pregame programming would be a significant increase from the $10 million to $15 million NBC tallied, according to industry executives. NBC is estimated to have pulled in about $95 million to $100 million for Super Bowl XXXII and pregame programming.
It also pocketed additional revenue from airing a high-quality NBA contest earlier that afternoon, featuring the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls, teams that later faced each other for the NBA championship.
In addition to the major pregame packages, Fox is selling select smaller buys in the programming. Individual spots range from $40,000 during the first hour of the programming day to $1.2 million in the last half-hour before the game starts.
About 80% of the inventory has been sold, according to executives.
POSTGAME PROFITS, TOO
Fox hopes to make another $2 million to $4 million from high-price inventory in a post-game show, with General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac as title sponsor. And the night doesn't end there for Fox.
Just as networks have done for many years, Fox is debuting "Family Guy," a new animated half-hour series following the game. An episode of "The Simpsons" will run after that.
Individual spots for those shows have been going for a premium -- $700,000 to $800,000 per :30 -- and that will yield another $8.5 million for the super programming day.
The NBA's labor dispute and lockout also helps Fox, since basketball's shortened season won't start until Feb. 5. So Fox is all alone in terms of network coverage of major sports on Super Bowl Sunday, and has been sending out mailers to advertisers, touting itself as "the only game in town" that day.
Contributing: Jean Halliday, Alice Z. Cuneo.