But one category that is usually a Super Bowl mainstay is largely absent this year: movies. So far only two movie studios have bought time in the game -- Walt Disney Co. and Lionsgate. Paramount and Sony have bought pre-game spots.
John Bogusz, CBS exec-VP sports sales, said the movie category was still "squishy," but added that beer, autos and pharmaceuticals were all solid. The network moved a couple of units to a cosmetics company this morning. It has sold spots to 25-plus marketers to date (see Who's Buying What Super Bowl chart). "It's coming down to a handful of units," he added.
The network was holding the line on pricing, Mr. Bogusz said, reporting that the network wasn't moving far off its original $2.6 million asking price for a 30-second spot. Agencies, however, have said CBS is selling "fourth-quarter scraps," or ads that fall at the end of the game in the middle of the pod, for far less. Three agencies said they had discussed pricing at around half the original price. A CBS spokesperson dismissed this notion.
The explanations offered for movie studios' hesitance are various; movie studios are reluctant to use early February as a launching pad for the summer tent-pole films anymore (despite a recent study from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire that found the Super Bowl works best for summer blockbusters); there are fewer new releases around than in other years; and one movie studio is reportedly suffering from in-fighting and hasn't yet decided which of its movies or DVD releases should get a spot. Of course, there is still a week to go before the big game and a studio can still jump in if it wants to.
Last year, when the Super Bowl aired on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, Disney promoted "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," but it has no plans to promote the third installment in this year's telecast, instead using the high-profile event to showcase the comedy "Wild Hogs" and likely the computer-generated family flick "Meet the Robinsons."
Other big franchise movies that are expected to dominate the box office this summer and will be absent from the game include Dreamworks' "Shrek 3" and Sony's "Spider-Man 3." Sony will buy a spot in the pre-game for its comic book-based "Ghost Rider," which opens Feb. 16.
"If the Super Bowl falls within the normal broadcast window of when you'd be buying media for that movie, then it makes the most sense," said Jim Gallagher, president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. "It's not imperative to advertise there in order to launch a summer tent-pole movie."
Studios still rely heavily on TV to promote their movie slates but increasingly try nontraditional tactics such as partnering with internet giants, releasing trailers on Xbox Live and creating original movie-centric entertainment for cellphones and BlackBerrys. If the prior seasons are any indication, Fox's "American Idol" will again be a major stumping place for summer films.