NBC Super Bowl Ad Sales Red Hot

Despite lockout scare, auto leads the way in fast-moving upfront


While it’s anyone’s guess when (or if) the 2011-12 National Football League season will kick off, NBC has already moved a significant chunk of its most valuable inventory.

According to a number of sources, NBC has sold nearly half of its available Super Bowl XLVI spots, cutting deals with a number of repeat clients looking to protect their positions in the big game.

Precise ad rates are unavailable, yet NBC is believed to be commanding rates above and beyond Fox’ year-ago average price of $3 million per 30-second spot. Rates for Super bowl spots typically increase by as much as $150,000 each season, although given the deluge of automotive, telecom and financial services dollars flooding the market, NBC could push for a $300,000 hike. A bold move, to be sure, but the market is likely to bear that out.

NBC advertising executives were unavailable for comment. Speaking at an ad industry conference in February, Marianne Gambelli, president of network ad sales for NBC, said she would likely look for some increase versus Fox’ 2010 rate.

“Obviously with the ratings, we’re going to push price,” Gambelli said. “But where it goes, I’m not exactly sure yet. We have a lot of conversations going on and there’s a lot of demand for it.”

Yet another harbinger of what’s certain to be a record upfront bazaar, the fast-moving avails are a recapitulation of Fox’ 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 sparked the run on ad time.

Last year, eight automakers bought 20 in-game Super Bowl spots, accounting for nearly one-third of the broadcast’s total avails (63). 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.

Automotive has been a big part of the conversation at the NFL’s other network partners. Fox has sold a healthy portion of its regular-season avails and is believed to have wrapped up a good deal of auto business in both its Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show and within its live 1 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. broadcasts.

CBS is also said to be fielding offers for its Sunday afternoon coverage.

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