While the price of a Super Bowl commercial can vary depending on
the advertiser involved and at what time during the game they're
buying a spot, NBC in some cases has brassily suggested that 30
seconds of ad time during the game is worth north of $3 million and
as much as $3.5 million, according to ad buyers. Anything in that
range would represent a new high for Super Bowl inventory, which
has hit $3 million in recent years but stayed at or below that
level while the recent recession drew marketers' purse strings
An NBC Sports spokesman said ad-sales executives were not
available for comment. Speaking during a recent conference held by
the Association for National Advertisers, Marianne Gambelli,
president-ad sales for NBC, said the network would likely seek to
increase the prices Fox took in for the 2011 Super Bowl. Fox was
seeking between $2.8 million and $3 million for 30 seconds of ad
time this year.
Not everyone would have to pay the high-sticker price.
Advertisers who have a pre-existing relationship with NBC or who
may be looking to augment a larger package of sports advertising
inventory with the network would likely not pay top cost.
Top clients would also likely get a discount. Anheuser-Busch InBev
has a multi-year Super Bowl sponsorship; as one of the top buyers
of advertising in the event, the company is known to pay less than
the going rate for inventory in the event. And there's always
location, meaning the stage of the game in which a spot runs: Super
Bowl ad prices often slump for less-desirable inventory that
remains available late in the process, particularly slots in the
Interest in the Super Bowl has always been high, but it has
intensified in recent years as marketers chase viewers who watch
events -- and the ads supporting them -- live and in a mass that is
no longer readily achieved by most ordinary broadcast TV
programming. Thanks to new technology, consumers are increasingly
watching their favorite TV shows with different niche behaviors,
whether they include playing programs back on a DVR, ordering them
up on-demand, or viewing them on a portable media device or through
streaming video. When it comes to the Super Bowl, however, the bulk
of the audience tunes in to the venerable boob-tube en masse.
Fox's broadcast of the Super Bowl this year became the
most-watched U.S. broadcast of all time, according to Nielsen,
having reached more than 111 million U.S. viewers. CBS's broadcast
of the game in 2010 held that honor for just a year, having reached
around 106.5 U.S. million viewers. Prior to the 2010 Super Bowl
broadcast, CBS's 1983 broadcast of the series finale of "M*A*S*H"
held the record for the country's most-watched TV program of all
Super Bowl ad prices typically rise $100,000 or $200,000 or each
year, depending on the performance of the most-recent broadcast.
NBC's proposal of a possible hike of $500,000, however, is bold.
For one thing, the NFL is in the midst of labor discussions that
could leave the U.S. without a football season come autumn.
The economy can also wreak havoc on the process. In 2008, with
months to go before its 2009 game-day broadcast, NBC publicly
suggested a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl was worth at least $3
million. Yet when the recession hit later that year, NBC ran into
headwinds and faced heady challenges selling its remaining
NBC's 2009 broadcast of the Super Bowl was its first since the
end of the 1997 season. Next year, its broadcast of the Super Bowl
will be its first under new ownership. Comcast Corp. earlier
this year closed its deal to acquire a majority stake in NBC
Universal, and recent comments by Steve Burke, the new chief
executive of NBCU, suggest the company expects to make a profit off
sporting events. Rights fees for major sports contests have grown
significantly in recent years, to the point when many networks are
casting about to find ways to make the economics of their
broadcasts of such marquee match-ups more favorable.
NBC's "Sunday Night Football" broadcasts are some of the
highest-rated on TV -- and some of the most expensive places in
which marketers can advertise on broadcast TV.