TV viewers who tuned to Super Bowl 50 this weekend likely gorged themselves on chicken wings, beer and sandwiches. Their eyes, meanwhile, were led to feast on something else: ads.
Super Bowl 50 had the most commercials and promos of any regular broadcast of the annual gridiron classic, highlighting the dependence of both advertisers and TV networks on the game at a time when cultivating mass audiences for a media event has become a more arduous task.
The CBS broadcast contained 49 minutes and 35 seconds of advertising and promos, according to Kantar Media, a tracker of ad spending. Advertising, which totaled 39 minutes and 15 seconds, accounted for about 22% of the total broadcast. That total of ads and promos was surpassed only once, during CBS’ 2013 broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII, when a blackout prompted the network to run a set of unscheduled promos for its shows as well as repeat one of the commercial breaks to ensure sponsors were getting the air time for which they had paid.
If that fluke is removed from the records, Super Bowl 50 had more ad time and promos than either Super Bowl XLVIII, which contained 49 minutes and 15 seconds, or Super Bowl XLVIX, which contained 48 minutes and 5 seconds, according to Kantar. The CBS “Blackout Bowl” in 2013 boasted 51 minutes and 40 seconds of ads and network promos.
None of the totals includes advertising time from local stations, which typically sell high-cost advertising during the event.
CBS ran a total of 62 in-game spots featuring 53 different advertisers owned by 46 different parent companies in Super Bowl 50, according to Kantar.
The Super Bowl is a make-or-break event for the TV networks that air it. It’s no secret that the cost of securing rights to NFL football games is sky high. Disney’s ESPN, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, CBS Corp.’s CBS, and 21st Century Fox’s Fox Networks Group will, all told, pay $39.6 billion to the NFL for the rights to broadcast TV games between 2014 and 2022. Those numbers would not include rights to “Thursday Night Football,” which have been negotiated separately as the NFL seeks to gain more attention for that package of games. The cost of those rights — secured recently by CBS and NBC — is expected to total around $450 million for two years.
As such, the companies that air the Super Bowl are highly aware of the money the pigskin championship can generate. Comcast said last year that NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX generated $376 million in revenue. You can do the math for CBS, which sought anywhere from $4.5 million to more than $5 million for a 30-second berth in its broadcast of this year’s game.
Viewers of Super Bowl 50 might have noticed some advertisers more than others. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer of Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob and Shock Top, ran five commercials accounting for three minutes and 30 seconds of ad time — the most of any Super Bowl sponsor this year, according to Kantar. Fiat Chrysler and PepsiCo each ran two minutes’ worth of commercials. Four companies — Deutsche Telekom, Honda Motor, Toyota Motor and Valeant Pharmaceuticals — each ran a minute and 30 seconds of commercials.
Super Bowl 50 featured one of the largest set of rookie sponsors in recent memory, according to Kantar. Of 53 national advertisers in the game, 17 of them, or 32%, were first-time members of the ad roster. In comparison, Super Bowl XLVIII and Super Bowl XLIX each featured 45 first-timers, accounting for 27% and 31% of the total.
While viewers were forced to pig out on ads, they were served some special dishes. Of the 62 ads aired in the game, 17, or 27%, lasted a minute or longer, Kantar said. As a result, several of the breaks aired during Super Bowl 50 featured just two commercials. Longer ads have gained favor from Super Bowl advertisers in recent years, with the trend reaching its height in 2014. In that year, 22 ads, or 42%, lasted a minute or more.