Instant replay (almost) for Super Bowl spots

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If you're one of those who only watches the Super Bowl for the ads (and apparently there are a lot of you), Super Bowl XL will be a landmark. For the first time, the National Football League plans to assemble a half-hour show consisting solely of Super Bowl ads for its video-on-demand platform.

The NFL is contacting creative agencies, media buyers, media planners and anyone else involved in the process to remind them to gain rights to air commercials in this emerging medium.

"We are explaining that we'll take your ad and air it immediately after the game," said David Pattillo, director-media sales, NFL Network, the league's cable channel. "A lot of people are cooperating. This is additional buzz and the advertisers are saying this is free PR for us."

The NFL Network has run a similar Super Bowl commercial show on its cable channel for the past two years. That show, however, did not appear until mid-week after the game. The VOD programming will be available to viewers just hours later.

As with all new platforms, the rights issues are a headache for creative agencies to navigate, but for movie studios it's even more thorny. "Universal and Paramount have to pay the talent, and for them the cost means it's just not feasible," Mr. Pattillo said. "Those are the ones we're having a little trouble with." He said that around 80% of the advertisers involved in the game had supplied their ads for the cable commercial show.

`Plenty of visibility'

An agency executive, who did not wish to be named, explained that there are additional costs for airing commercials as programming that would need to be paid for by someone.

"We get plenty of visibility. Any company that wants to run the commercials would have to pick up the talent costs. There are also commercial music rights and publisher's rights."

The Super Bowl has long been the biggest TV viewing event of the year, with 89 million people tuning in last year. But the ads have become an increasingly popular reason to watch. A survey conducted last February by consulting firm Penn Shoen & Berland found that 58% of polled adults said they talked more about the ads the next day than they did the game. The same number of respondents said they would rather miss some of the game than any of the commercials.

Only marketers that are in-game sponsors, not pre- or post-game, will be included in the VOD show, which is intended to air by midnight on the Sunday of the big game. Super Bowl XL is scheduled to be played at Ford Field on Feb. 5 in Detroit. This year's broadcaster is Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.

The NFL, through a deal with VOD-measurement company Rentrak, Portland, Ore., will provide advertisers Web-like measurement statistics showing precisely how interested viewers were in the ads. Rentrak has the ability to provide data on such things as how many people watched the program, sped through spots or repeated them endlessly.

Super Bowl spots are priced at $2.5 million per 30-second spot this year. According to media buyers, ABC has around 10 spots left to sell. The Super Bowl usually contains around 64 spots. ABC declined to comment on its Super Bowl sales at this stage, though Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi-Cola Co. are traditionally the biggest spenders. Sprint has already said it has agreed to sponsor the halftime show.

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