"It doesn't hurt to throw that number out there," says Gibbs Haljun, managing partner-director of broadcast at WPP's Mediaedge:cia. "If anybody pays that at this point, that's a different story."
Typical year-over-year increases for Super Bowl asking prices are 5% to 6%; if ABC, which declined to comment on its pricing strategy, asks for $2.6 million, it would constitute an 8% rise. Several media buyers called that number posturing-"if any advertiser buys that right now, I want them as my client," says one executive. Yet, adds Andy Donchin, senior VP-broadcast, Aegis' Carat, "nothing surprises me with the Super Bowl because it's such an event."
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Networks typically begin negotiating Super Bowl buys during the upfront, with the usual suspects-beer companies, auto manufacturers and major movies studios, or those who might want a particular position-expected to sign on earlier than others. The selling season goes right up to the big game with most media buyers counting on at least six spots remaining in January. Haljun says he'll wait to judge what a Super Bowl spot is worth until seeing how second- and third-quarter scatter markets pan out and what the rest of the upfront programming looks like.
Ed Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales for Walt Disney Co's ESPN/ABC Sports, has big ambitions for Super Bowl XL. "The slogan of our Super Bowl sales effort is to `be a Super Bowl marketer, not an advertiser in the Super Bowl,"' Erhardt says. "We wanted people to think about the Super Bowl investment broadly and in as many media platforms as possible." He wants Super Bowl deals to include other properties within ABC Sports and ESPN, including ESPN.com, ESPN radio and ESPN the Magazine, as well as broadband service ESPN 360, ESPN Mobile and ESPN Wireless. The move would fit with the current internal sales reorganization at ABC Sports/ESPN, which created a media-agnostic selling staff to market the full portfolio.
"Monday Night Football" is also part of that portfolio-at least for one more year. After completing multibillion-dollar deals with CBS, Fox and DirecTV, the NFL is negotiating rate fees with Disney for Sunday and Monday prime-time games. Its current contract ends after the 2005 season. Because of the economics of a potential deal, there's speculation that "Monday Night Football" could shift to ESPN and ABC could end up with ESPN's current Sunday night package. "Monday Night Football," a money loser for ABC, would give ESPN a marquee brand to anchor the rest of its football programming.
It's not uncommon to package multiplatform or cross-channel promotions into a Super Bowl buy, though most media buyers say ABC has an advantage over Fox-which aired last year's game-thanks to a more powerful lineup of sports properties under its umbrella. Three years ago, when the game was on CBS, Viacom leveraged cable assets MTV and Nickelodeon into the buys. And when additional properties are bundled into a Super Bowl buy, it's more difficult to pinpoint the value of a 30-second spot.
ABC wants Super Bowl deals to include other properties, such as ESPN; the move would fit in with its sales reorganization.