Sony's big ticket

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In an unusually big commitment for a movie studio, Sony Pictures Entertainment is betting Super Bowl Sunday will be just the ticket to sell its movies.

The studio intends to purchase 13 thirty-second national spots in and around Fox's Feb. 3 TV broadcast in a package valued by media analysts at $5 million to $7 million. The buy includes two or more spots in the game itself, plus a number in Fox's pre-game and post-game programming, to promote its very full slate of 2002 theatrical movies.

The most unusual aspect of the program is not the buy on Super Bowl XXXVI itself, but after the game, when Fox airs a special one-hour version of its hit TV show, "Malcolm in the Middle."

Sony is buying all six commercial "pod" positions in the sitcom's game night broadcast, giving the studio exclusivity. Pods are the ad breaks during TV shows where anywhere from two to six 30-second commercials run together.

"Usually the program after the Super Bowl has been the event in itself. "It's always been a big deal," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of Sony Pictures' Columbia TriStar Marketing Group. "And `Malcolm in the Middle' happens to fit all our movies for the summer from an audience composition in terms of family, teens and kids."

Sony has one of the biggest slates of major pictures for 2002, including "Spider-Man," "Men In Black 2," "Stuart Little 2," "Mr. Deeds" (with Adam Sandler), and "XXX" (with Vin Diesel).

"There is so much competition for big [2002] movies-not the least of which is our own slate of films-that we had to find a venue in addition to trailer play to introduce them all," said Cherie Crane, senior VP-media for Sony's Columbia TriStar Marketing Group.

Parent Sony Corp. is currently reviewing its media assignment, which includes Sony Pictures. The Super Bowl buy was handled by incumbent Universal McCann, New York and Los Angeles, which is pitching the overall $1 billion global Sony account.

As of August, Fox hoped to get $2.4 million to $2.5 million for a 30-second spot on Super Bowl XXVI. But commercials have been selling this fall for below $2 million (AA, Dec. 3).

Other studios that have bought time on the Super Bowl broadcast itself include Vivendi Universal's Universal Pictures and AOL Time Warner's New Line, according to media executives.

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