NBC Goes Long For Advertisers In Next Year's Super Bowl

Think about a better plan NBC could have worked out for trying to dramatically raise the price of a Super Bowl commercial spot -- instead of using The Wall Street Journal as its sales sheet.

Why didn't NBC tell the Journal it would be charging $5 million for a Super Bowl 30-second commercial spot? Then it would actually get the $3 million the newspaper said NBC was looking for from advertisers for the big event.

The real story is not whether NBC is asking for the $3 million. It's whether the network gets $3 million for all 64 spots in the game. That's because this isn't the first time Super Bowl commercials have been sold for $3 million. During the dot-com craze, ABC did it first with the 2000 Super Bowl with two advertisers.

I can hear the snickering: Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is working the room so that when his Fox network gets the Super Bowl again in 2011, it'll go a long way toward higher prices for the event.

We in the media business press are repeatedly used to tout the dreams of media executives. But you try to keep it to a minimum, focusing on business that has happened, not what executives wish for.

In the past, stories like this would have included a few advertisers already making some high-priced deals. At least with those stories, a network can point to some momentum.

If NBC really wants to get $3 million for a Super Bowl spot, it could have taken out a print ad in the WSJ. It's far easier to explain in an ad why the price tag will be rising some $300,000 from this past event's current $2.7 million -- not the usual $100,000 bump per year.

Asking the price of a Super Bowl commercial spot is always a loaded question. There is a long history of how networks and TV advertisers go about bookkeeping the big Super Bowl price tag.

Is it part of a package with pre- and post-game? Is it part of a regular season NFL package, or combined with any of NBC's regular prime-time series? All that can bring the price tag down to a different level -- one where senior marketing executives can justify the sizable cost of participating in the big game.

The WSJ says NBC will be unveiling its Super Bowl price tag next week during the network's newfangled upfront presentation -- which really isn't an upfront presentation, according to the network's new way of doing business.

One doubts NBC will be making a formal price announcement: "And just for you advertisers -- in the wake of declining network TV ratings -- we'll be charging a healthy $3 million for a commercial in the Super Bowl." Of course, that might be NBC's point - with declining ratings, big events like the Super Bowl still go a long way for marketers.

Then again -- considering the new ways NBC is doing business -- the Super Bowl advertising push might be one gigantic Hail Mary pass into the end zone



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