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The remaining commercials are in the fourth quarter, which is typical this close to game day. ABC has sold 55 spots so far.
Buying fourth-quarter commercials can be tricky. If the score is lopsided late in the game, viewers then tend to tune out, which is why most advertisers try to score first-half placement.
"If you buy a fourth-quarter spot, you'll still get a great game," said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales, pointing to a number of recent NFL and college bowl games where ratings were higher in the second half.
The network's $2.1 million average price for this year's game equals the highest average price ever for a Super Bowl, which came in 2000 when ABC last had the Super Bowl. In that game, 22 dot-com advertisers spent lavishly, with two long-gone companies dishing out $3 million each for 30-second spots, the highest individual sales for spots of that length ever.
Always a ratings champ
In spite of the high cost, media executives still praise the value of the game, which is always the highest-rated TV event of the year. For the last two years -- on News Corp.'s Fox in 2002 and Viacom's CBS in 2001 -- the games posted the same Nielsen Media Research 40 rating/61 share.
"I'm surprised the game has lost very little," said Larry Novernstern, senior vice president and director of national broadcast for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York. "With all the [ratings] erosion in network, there has been far less erosion with the Super Bowl. It's still a tremendous value."
This average price is 10% higher than the $1.9 million tag last year on Fox, according to Advertising Age estimates. ABC benefited from an overall strong TV market, which has seen scatter prices rise 12% to 15% higher than upfront pricing.
Narrow price range
Ad agency executives and Mr. Erhardt concur that the price range for the Super Bowl this year was "narrower." No advertiser paid $3 million per spot, and none negotiated a $1.5 million bill.
"They must be trying to hold their pricing," said Mel Berning, president-U.S. broadcast at Bcom3 Group's Mediavest Worldwide, New York, "because the units are still there" to sell. As a result, ABC is "not able to range their numbers dramatically."
Mr. Erhardt said 60% of the Super Bowl deals were packaged with other ABC or ESPN sports programming.