The Super Bowl still might be the most sought-after ad time on TV -- but it isn't immune to the advertising woes that are impacting the overall TV marketplace.
"[Advertisers] are just not ready to make a commitment," said Seth Winter, exec VP-sales and sales marketing, NBC Sports Group and NBC Universal News Group.
NBC, which will air the game on Feb. 1, said it has sold about 90% of its available ad inventory during the game, with approximately 9 to 10 slots remaining. Mr. Winter said the Super Bowl still represents big reach and value for advertisers, who not only run spots between kickoff and the last whistle but build complimentary campaigns to run in other media and before and after the game. He acknowledged, however, that the pace of sales so far is slightly slower than prior years.
That's consistent with the overall TV ad market this summer and fall, where marketers are holding back ad budgets and spending much closer to air date, Mr. Winter said. "They don't want to make buys until they have to," he said, adding that the Super Bowl is not impervious to overall market conditions.
The auto category, in particular, has been a significant source of consternation to NBC, Mr. Winter said. When the peacock network last aired the big game in 2012, about two dozen spots were filled by automakers. But so far the 2015 game has seen just 12 equivalent units sold to advertisers in the category.
Jaguar and Lincoln have both already confirmed that they will be sitting out of the game, while Mercedes-Benz has purchased one spot.
Mr. Winter cited the lack in new vehicle launches timed to the New Year, as well as a cautious outlook from automakers and some company-specific internal situations.
Still, there will be about a dozen new advertisers in the 2015 game, Mr. Winter said, coming from categories like digital commerce and tech. NBC is also fetching $4.5 million per 30-second spot, Mr. Winter confirmed, with those buying two or more spots paying $4.4 million each. The price is an increase from the $4 million or so Fox charged on average for the 2014 game.
Fox declared it had sold out of inventory in the last Super Bowl by the first week in December.
Super Bowl advertisers are continuing to migrate toward long-form ads, meanwhile: Mr. Winter noted an uptick in the number of 60-second commercial sold.
The drama over the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, a PR nightmare for the NFL earlier this season, hasn't seemed to affect Super Bowl advertising.
While some advertisers wanted to see how their peers would react, very little action was ultimately taken, Mr. Winter said. One advertiser that participated in the Super Bowl in the past, however, said that it will sit out of the upcoming game as a result, he said. Mr. Winter declined to identify the advertiser.