Fox Sells 80% of Super Bowl Avails in Upfront, CW Wraps

Although it’ll be a good three months before the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings kick off the 2010-11 National Football League season, Fox has already sold a significant chunk of its most valuable pigskin inventory.

According to a number of industry sources, the broadcaster has moved a whopping 80 percent of the available spots during its Super Bowl XLV broadcast.

While exact pricing figures were unavailable, Fox is believed to have commanded rates above and beyond CBS’ year-ago rate of $2.5 million to $2.8 million per 30-second spot.

The bulk of the Super Bowl deals were hashed out over the last few weeks, as Jon Nesvig, president of sales for Fox Broadcasting, responded to a flurry of interest from automotive clients. On May 17, prior to Fox’s New York upfront presentation, Nesvig told reporters that he had secured a few preliminary agreements to get clients in the big game.

“It’s a good predictor of prime time,” Nesvig said, anticipating a strong upfront marketplace.

Last year, CBS sold around 39 minutes of Super Bowl air time, for a total haul of $213 million.

Various industry sources estimated that Fox was able to command CPM hikes between 8.5 and 9 percent over last year’s pricing, an improvement that contributed to an overall volume increase of about 20 percent. All told, Fox is believed to have brought in anywhere from $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion in prime-time commitments, in what will go on the books as the second most-lucrative upfront in the network’s 24-year history.

All told, Fox moved roughly 80 percent of its available inventory, in line with historical sell-through numbers. (Hampered by the recession, last year’s bazaar was an anomaly; per analyst estimates, Fox sold closer to 70 percent of its airtime during the 2009-10 upfront.)

Fox set the market, capping CPM premiums at 9 percent. That said, CBS and ABC are looking for deals pegged to similar increases, while NBC is said to be chasing 7 percent pricing hikes.

On Friday, the CW joined Fox in the clubhouse, having raised upfront sales of around $350 million, on CPM increases in the neighborhood of 7.5 percent over the 2009-10 bazaar. All told, the CW is believed to have moved between 70-75 percent of its avails.

Rob Tuck, CW’s exec vp of national sales, said demand was strong in all target categories, including: health/beauty, retail, auto and wireless. Tuck indicated that “the vast majority” of CW clients invested in converged media buys.