With a good five months before the Super Bowl kicks off in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, NBC has nearly sold out all of its most valuable football inventory.
According to Seth Winter, senior vice president of NBC Sports Group Sales & Marketing, “literally a handful of units” remain available in its Super Bowl XLVI broadcast. An estimated 63 in-game slots were up for grabs; of these perhaps as few as six remain.
Such is the strength of the market that NBC is guaranteed to smash all previous pricing records for the game. While Fox commanded $3 million per spot a year ago, NBC has raised the bar to as high as $3.5 million a pop.
“We originally set a target of $3.5 million. That was our asking price in the market,” Winter said. “But as we ventured into the market with the Super Bowl, we were always look for broader commitments across our sports assets. We don’t just sell Super Bowl positions, so depending on what other buys the clients made, the final price of an individual spot is a function of these other commitments.”
Each Super Bowl unit sold thus far is attached to some other NBC Sports offering, Winter said. Key among these is the 17-day 2012 Summer Olympics, which will unfold in London July 27-Aug. 12.
Despite fears that the NFL season would be delayed or scuttled altogether, sales of NBC’s Super Bowl inventory proceeded without interruption throughout the four-month labor dispute. In fact, two months after the lockout began on March 11, NBC had already sold half of its Super Bowl slots.
The fast-moving market is a recapitulation of Fox’s early sell-off of Super Bowl XLV. By early June 2010, Fox had already wrapped 80 percent of its Super Bowl business, a remarkable feat given that broadcasters had previously only reached that milestone in October—or about six weeks into the NFL regular season.
Then, as now, automotive dollars sparked the demand. And while Winter declined to identify the clients who have already committed to the Super Bowl, he acknowledged that NBC’s broadcast will be just as flush with car dollars as last year’s production.
“You will see the same strength in auto this year that you did last year,” Winter said. “I can literally count on the fingers of one hand the number of car advertisers who won’t be back.”
Last year, eight automakers bought 20 in-game Super Bowl spots, accounting for nearly one-third of the broadcast’s total avails. Among those who ponied up for the exposure were Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mercedes, and Kia. The game marked Mercedes’ first foray into America’s great secular holiday; moreover, Fox welcomed back BMW after a 10-year absence.
The Steelers-Packers showdown smashed the record for the most-watched single TV event in American history, as an average 111 million viewers tuned into Fox on Feb. 6. With peak viewership reaching 162.9 million, more than half the total U.S. population saw at least part of the game, according to Nielsen.
Along with the in-game spots, NBC is doing well with its shoulder programming around the event. “We are very well sold throughout the day. As you know, there are people who for whatever reason do not buy the Super Bowl but want to be involved in the day. Those clients are buying category exclusiveness and [marquee] sponsorships in the programming leading up to the game.”
In the near term, NBC is all but sold out of its Sunday Night Football inventory. Loaded with big draws like the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New York Giants, the SNF slate kicks off Sept. 8 with an NFC matchup between Green Bay and New Orleans.
According to Nielsen, NBC last season averaged 21.2 million viewers per SNF broadcast, making it the most-watched package on television. “We are extraordinarily well sold in the regular season, and while the season hasn’t even started yet, we’ve already exceeded last year’s final revenue tally,” Winter said. “That in itself should speak to the increasingly healthy NFL marketplace.”