NBC Sells 85% of Super Bowl Ads as Madison Ave. Rushes to Big Game

·3 min read

Advertisers are blitzing the Super Bowl.

Despite NBC’s efforts to seek a record price tag for commercials in its Big Game broadcast of Super Bowl LVI, slated to air February 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California,. Madison Avenue is rushing to the event. NBC said Thursday that it has already sold 85% of its inventory in the football extravaganza, with media buyers acknowledging the Super Bowl market heated up earlier than many had anticipated.

NBC has insisted on a high price for Super Bowl inventory, asking for between $5.8 million and $6.2 million for a 30-second spot, according to one media buyer with knowledge of negotiations. Another media buyer noted that all of the commercials in the first half of the game have been spoken for in advanced discussions. NBC has also pressed advertisers who want Super Bowl inventory to put a similar amount of money into its coming 2022 broadcast of the Winter Olympics, slated to take place at the same time as the Super Bowl. The combination of the two events, as well as NBC’s Tokyo Olympics, has put pressure on the network, which has a massive amount of high-priced commercial time to sell.

TV networks typically sell the bulk of their Super Bowl commercials early in the process, making their first pitches to advertisers who bought inventory in the previous game. But in most years, networks sell as much as 60%, and require the rest of the year to unload the last 15 or so slots. CBS, which aired Super Bowl LV earlier this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, didn’t reach sell-out levels until late January. The network sought $5.5 million for a 30-second ad and faced Big absences from Big Game stalwarts like Coca-Cola, while Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch sidelined their flagship brands from the ad roster.

One buyer cautioned that the Super Bowl ad-sales process remains in flux until kickoff. Advertisers can ask to be released from their commitments if they feel they don’t have an appropriate message or get buyer’s remorse over the costs of the endeavor. “When you have a finite amount of inventory things can change rapidly in either direction,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director at Optimum Sports, a specialist in sports advertising that is part of Omnicom Media Group. “There are still many steps left between now and February to get Super Bowl creative produced and ready to run live, including all of the ancillary activation that goes along with doing it the right way.”

NBCUniversal unveiled its Super Bowl progress as it detailed parts of its recent upfront sales efforts. The company said it secured $500 million in upfront commitments for its Peacock streaming service, a sign of Madison Avenue’s increasing interest in reaching viewers through an array of new venues devoted to on-demand interaction.

Like other networks in this year’s upfront sessions, NBC saw more growth in volume committed to streaming and other venues. NBC’s primetime slate commanded a low-single-digit percentage increase, according to a person familiar with the matter, while its overall portfolio saw a double-digit percentage increase in volume.

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