You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox Builds Live Commercial Concept for Super Bowl

The Super Bowl often serves as a place for some of Madison Avenue’s most surprising work. In recent broadcasts of the pigskin classic, viewers have heard Clint Eastwood tell them, “It’s halftime in America,” and seen Bob Dylan sell cars. They’ve waded through ads that were two-minutes in length, and cringed as they were pitched an opportunity to get cash for gold by MC Hammer and Ed McMahon.

In 2017, viewers may be startled anew.

Fox is readying a live commercial concept for its February 5, 2017, telecast of Super Bowl LI, according to a person familiar with the situation, though details of the execution and the advertiser could not be immediately learned.  If the technique makes it into the Big Game’s advertising lineup, it could spark new attention from millions of viewers who may have thought they’d seen it all. A spokesman for Fox Networks Group, the 21st Century Fox-owned TV unit that operates Fox Broadcasting, declined to comment. Fox is seeking more than $5 million for each of more than 70 30-second ad slots, according to this person, and has sold nearly 90% of its inventory.

Live or taped-live ads placed within programming have been a well-utilized technique in the TV business, particularly in late-night and sports programming. Jimmy Kimmel, the ABC late-night TV host, has for years offered up the occasional ad pitch during his taped program. Jared Fogle, the discredited former Subway spokesman, once surfaced during a CBS Sports NFL halftime program. Seth Meyers was recently spotted doing ads for Amazon during the ad breaks of NBC’s “Late Night” when the show took a week-long trip to Washington, D.C. And decades ago, hosts ranging from Jack Benny to Arthur Godfrey were happy to offer a few words from sponsors like Chesterfield or Pillsbury.

Live commercials in the current era serve a slightly different purpose than their decades-old counterparts. At a time when more viewers can skip past commercials, or avoid many of them altogether through digital means, the live ads are designed to give viewers more of the content they tuned in for in the first place. A fan of Kimmel, so the theory goes, is less likely to turn away from a scene of the host talking about KFC or Coca-Cola, but might do just that if a traditional TV pitch came on and interrupting his program.

Fox has tested some interesting concepts in recent weeks. During its broadcast of the World Series in the fall, the network ran what might be called a “commercial-free commercial break” featuring analysis of the game from Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas. The catch? The two-and-a-half minute long sports-content segment was sponsored by T-Mobile – a fact that was made very plain to viewers who stuck around for the segment.

Other networks and marketers have also made use of live commercials to noticeable effect. In February, Target sponsored a four-minute ad break during CBS’ annual Grammy Awards broadcast. During those precious minutes, Gwen Stefani performed in a “live video” of the song “Make Me Like You,” even changing costumes seven different times as red-and-white and bull’s-eye designs (some of Target’s best-known signifying marks) appeared on screen.

Fox could unveil an entirely new idea come February. The media concept and creative execution likely hinge on the advertiser or advertisers that have agreed to test the format out. However it plays out, the commercial is likely to be seen by more than 100 million viewers, each of whom will talk about it whether it soars or flops.


More TV

  • BBC Orders Oscar Wilde Documentary with

    BBC Orders Oscar Wilde Documentary With Stephen Fry, Freddie Fox

    A new documentary about Oscar Wilde will tell the celebrated writer’s story with a star cast recreating excerpts from his greatest works, including “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Freddie Fox, Claire Skinner, Anna Chancellor and James Fleet will all perform in the 80-minute show, “The Importance of Being Oscar,” which [...]

  • FOSSE VERDON -- Pictured: (l-r) Michelle

    TV News Roundup: 'Fosse/Verdon' Premiere Date Set at FX

    In today’s TV news roundup, FX announced the premiere date for “Fosse/Verdon,” and Comedy Central released a new trailer for the final season of “Broad City.”  DATES “Workin’ Moms” is set to premiere Feb. 22 on Netflix. The series, which is currently in its third season, first aired in Canada on CBC Television and is [...]

  • Ilana Glazer Abbi Jacobson

    'Broad City' Stars on Discovering New Aspects of Their Characters

    Throughout the run of “Broad City,” creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have been conflicted about how much of their on-screen characters (also named Abbi and Ilana) should come directly from their personalities and lives. But when it came to the final season, Jacobson in particular experienced a life-changing shift that she wanted to impart [...]

  • The Goldbergs spinoff

    NBC Orders Comedy Pilot 'Uninsured' From 'Goldbergs' Producers

    NBC has ordered a pilot for the multi-camera comedy “Uninsured.” In the series, young parents Dave and Rebecca end up having to take care of Dave’s parents who have mishandled their finances and need help to pay down a sizable debt. Dan Levy will serve as writer and executive producer, with Doug Robinson and Alison Greenspan [...]

  • Emily Kapnek

    'Splitting Up Together' Creator Emily Kapnek Inks Overall Deal at ABC Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    Writer and producer Emily Kapnek has signed a three-year overall deal at ABC Studios, Variety has learned exclusively. Kapnek most recently developed the ABC single-cam comedy series “Splitting Up Together,” which is based on the Danish series “Bedre skilt end aldrig.” She was previously under an overall deal at Warner Bros. Television, which produces “Splitting Up [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content