NFL Ads Selling Super Fast

The sports marketplace is running hot, despite uncertainty over whether National Football League games will be played this season.

NBC has sold more than half of the Super Bowl ads that will air if the game is played as scheduled next February, according to sources. The network is getting more than $3 million per 30-second spot, up from last year’s game on Fox, which was a quick sellout. NBC had no comment.

Sources also said that Fox has already sold nearly all of the commercial time available to automakers in the upcoming NFL season and got strong increases in prices. Because the networks allow only one automaker’s ads to appear in a single quarter of football telecasts in order to increase brand recall, there are limited opportunities, and automakers that hesitate risk being shut out.

Automotive is one of the ad industry’s biggest categories. During the recession, TV networks were hit hard as automakers cut back. As car sales revive, the category has become a major driver for increased revenue.

Fox is in a similar, nearly sold-out situation with automakers in baseball’s World Series. Only one automaker’s commercials can appear in each half-inning break. Fox declined to comment.

With the NFL season in jeopardy because of its labor dispute, football advertisers might try to hedge their bets. But some ad sales executives know which clients buy football and say they won’t accept unusually large requests for ad time unless they are firm now, because they don’t want those buys to disappear when the lockout is settled. Upfront time is usually put on hold when deals are done and goes to order just before the season starts.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.