Super Bowl

NBC Holds Network Promos in Super Bowl Thankfully Steady Despite Slow Sales

It Was CBS in 2013 That Really Took Ran Wild

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While it took some late-game heroics for NBC to sell off the last of its in-game Super Bowl spots, the top-rated TV network didn't exactly leave a lot of money on the table.

Despite securing its final advertiser commitment mere days before Super Bowl XLIX kicked off in Glendale, Ariz., NBC's in-house promotional blitz was no more pronounced than in years past. All told, the Peacock aired seven minutes and 10 seconds of teasers for its own programs and a handful of shows on its sibling cable channels, according to Kantar Media, up slightly from the six minutes and 25 seconds Fox devoted to promos during last year's game.

The differential is even less significant when one takes into account Fox's relatively tight prime time schedule. Fox programs 15 hours of original content per week to NBC's 22; as such, the network simply does not have nearly as much home-grown content to promote over the course of a four-hour football game.

In a slow-moving Super Bowl marketplace, such as NBC just endured, the host network can either play the waiting game, in the hopes that last-minute clients such as movie studios come bursting through the door, or simply punt on any further sales and run its own promos in the unclaimed slots. (Last-minute discounts are bad for business; a client that paid $4.5 million for a 30-second slice of airtime really doesn't want to hear about a late arrival who waltzed off with a $4 million spot.)

If the last two Super Bowls represented the extremes of the marketplace -- Fox booked its last bit of business a good two months before the broadcast, in a year in which automotive brands accounted for one-third of total in-game sales -- CBS's sales pace in 2013 was about average. The Eye Network had moved the last of its inventory shortly after New Year's Day, having decided to hold back a significant chunk of time for its own promotional efforts.

And so CBS in Super Bowl XLVII aired a whopping 10 minutes and 20 seconds of promo content, by Kantar Media's count, an onslaught that included a solid three-minute brick that ran in the waning seconds of the second quarter.

Unlike NBC, which devoted the majority of its promo spots to upcoming midseason shows and miniseries ("Allegiance," "Heroes: Reborn," "Odyssey," "The Slap," "A.D."), CBS in 2013 was more catholic in its approach, using its time to hype practically every last series on its prime time schedule. That promos for legacy series far outnumbered those for midseason launches shouldn't have surprised anyone; at that point in the season, CBS only had a pair of freshman shows left in its quiver.

For all the variables that dictate a network's Super Bowl promo strategy, there are a few axiomatic principles that may as well be carved in stone. That a series isn't deemed worthy of promotional consideration during the year's biggest broadcast is generally bad news if you're a fan of that particular series. Fox last year didn't so much as throw "The X Factor" a 10-second morsel in its sleepy afternoon pre-game coverage, and five days later the show was canceled. A year earlier, a similar fate was visited upon the Dennis Quaid vehicle "Vegas," although in that case the axe didn't come down until a few days before CBS's May upfront presentation.

After being shunned last night, low-rated shows like "State of Affairs" and "Constantine" would be wise not to buy any green bananas. That said, the no-promo curse doesn't necessarily apply to as-yet unlaunched series. Rest easy, David Duchovny fans -- conspicuous absence of an "Aquarius" teaser may simply be a function of its undisclosed premiere date.

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