Super Bowl

Super Bowl ads sell super early

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Walt Disney Co. has taken the unusual step of selling Super Bowl inventory much earlier than usual, making the game broadcast on ABC part of an unprecedented deal with OMD USA, New York that exceeds $1 billion.

Negotiations between Disney and Omnicom Group's media giant were ongoing since early May,(AA, May 6, P.1) but last week concluded in a one year cross platform deal that includes all of Disney properties.

OMD has agreed to buy about one-third of the inventory in the Super Bowl-around 20 30-second commercials-executives said. OMD has not agreed to a unit price yet. Media agency executives expect those prices will be slightly below $2 million for each commercial. Neither OMD nor ABC executives would comment.

Media executives said ABC is targeting an average price for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial a bit north of $2 million. Last year's average Super Bowl price on News Corp.'s Fox was $1.9 million.

Typically, Super Bowl TV networks begin to sell time in the game months after the upfront. Executives wondered why ABC Sports would sell the event so soon when the upfront market was unexpectedly strong. ABC might have gotten better pricing by waiting.

This year, ABC and ESPN will air games from the four major sports leagues as it picks up from NBC rights to air the National Basketball Association's games, playoffs and finals. Many OMD USA clients have a sports focus, concentrating ad dollars with NFL football in particular. ABC airs "Monday Night Football," and ESPN airs "Sunday Night Football." The agency typically buys 15 to 20 Super Bowl spots every year. Last year, OMD's Super Bowl clients included Pepsi-Cola Co., Visa International, FedEx Corp., Masterfoods USA, Charles Schwab & Co., Universal Pictures, and MGM Distribution Co.

Anheuser-Busch Cos., which is not represented by OMD, is customarily the biggest Super Bowl advertiser. Last year, the brewer bought 10 30-second spots in the game. A-B makes multiyear Super Bowl and NFL deals for its commercials timed to when the NFL strikes its TV programming deals with the networks. With OMD's deal, and if A-B does buy its typical amount of spots, ABC will be about 50% sold for the Super Bowl in 2003.

"It didn't sell well last year, why not sell a few units early?" asked one veteran media agency executive. "It's better now than getting bad press at the end when you have inventory to sell."

While not all the specifics of the OMD-Disney deal are known, executives say the ABC Television Network will get $500 million of the $1 billion, $300 million of which will be targeted to primetime; ESPN will get $150 million to $200 million; and Lifetime Television (partly owned by major equity partner Hearst Corp.) will get $75 million.

So far, executives say ABC Sports' primetime sports programming will pull in $250 million in upfront deals, which is also earlier than when ABC typically sells its sports inventory. ABC Sports' goal for this year, thanks in part to the new addition of the NBA, is $700 million. Prime-time includes "Monday Night Football," "Bowl Championship Series," and the Super Bowl.

Fast Facts

What: OMD, Walt Disney Co. deal

How much: $1 bil plus

Who wins:

ABC primetime: $300 million

ESPN: $150 million to $200 million

Lifetime: $75 million

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