NBC is seeking around $4.5 million for a 30-second spot in Super Bowl XLIX, according to ad-buying executives, a whopping sum that could represent a new record for pricing in the gridiron classic, as well as a 12.5% uptick over prices sought for Fox’s 2014 broadcast of the event.
NBC has also been asking potential Super Bowl sponsors to pay a similar amount for a package of ad inventory in other NBCUniveral-owned sports properties, according to ad buyers familiar with the pace of negotiations, including English Premier League matches on NBCSN and sports broadcasts on Telemundo and sister cable outlet mun2.
Such an ask is not uncommon in the world of sports advertising. In the months leading up to its broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox prodded advertisers seeking a berth in the game to buy ad time in other sports properties televised by outlets operated by parent concern 21st Century Fox, with an emphasis placed on Fox Sports 1.
Ad buyers suggested the Peacock’s initial efforts might meet with some resistance. “It’s $9 million to get a Super Bowl spot, which is a lot,” said one ad-buying executive. “They are testing the market. If enough people don’t do it, it’s only June and it’s not broadcast until February. You could adjust your price in October if you need to. It’s all about testing the market and maximizing the revenue.”
NBC is in conversations regarding the sale of more than 40 30-second spots in the game, according to a person familiar with the situation, who described the sales process as “brisk.” Yet one ad buyer believes NBC has sold approximately 20 to 25 of the ad slots in the next Super Bowl, mostly to advertisers who are multiyear buyers of the game and who typically pay rates that are below the market. NBC said executives were not available for comment.
Super Bowl ad rates have hiked considerably in recent years, owing to a new view of the event by advertisers and media executives. To be sure, the pigskin championship has always been seen as a place to launch new ad campaigns, get noticed and dazzle consumers with better-than-usual creative work. Even so, as new devices have siphoned away TV audiences from traditional TV-watching behavior, the Super Bowl stands as one place where big advertisers know they can reach millions of people in one fell swoop who are interested in their content and won’t use a modern-day gizmo like DVR to skip past or avoid it altogether.
Fox sought $4 million for a 30-second ad in Super Bowl XLVIII, broadcast earlier this year. The company sold out its inventory the week before Thanksgiving, according to Neil Mulcahy, executive vice president of Fox Sports ad sales, in a December interview. In 2013, CBS won an average of between $3.7 million and $3.8 million for an ad in its 2013 broadcast.
Ad buyers said Fox’s desire to tie Super Bowl ad buying to a Fox Sports 1 purchase slowed the overall process for buying the game. Fox sold 85% of its inventory for the game by late August and had predicted it would sell out before the start of November.
Fox’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII reached 111.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the most-watched event television event in U.S. history, and this despite a lopsided victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the Denver Broncos. Fox’s 2014 telecast trumped the ratings set by CBS’ 2013 broadcast, which reached 108.69 million viewers, even when it was interrupted by a power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The previous record had been set by NBC’s 2012 Super Bowl telecast, which attracted 111.35 million viewers to watch a tense game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Before the 2013 broadcast, each of the five previous Super Bowl games had set the record as the most-watched U.S. TV event.
NBC is slated to broadcast Super Bowl XLIX from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.