A Super Bowl, considering

Fox is raking in close to $2 million per 30-second spot for units in the Super Bowl, says Jon Nesvig, head of sales for the network. That average pricing level, if maintained, would put the network in line with where CBS ended up last year.

In a recessionary environment, that's considered good news. The network still has five to 10 of the 59 in-game units left to sell, almost all of which are in the fourth quarter, Nesvig says. Last year this time (two weeks before the game), CBS was sold out.

But the recession and the Salt Lake City Olympics (which has gobbled up about $700 million in advertising) have slowed the pace of sales for this year's game.

If Super Bowl pricing holds up in the final two weeks, Fox expects to take in about $150 million in ad revenue on game day. The Fox owned-and-operated stations may contribute another $50 million, for a grand total of $200 million.

All things considered, Nesvig is happy with sales to date. "We would have liked to have seen the ever-increasing growth rate [continue]," he said, "but we're going to end up about where CBS was last year."

Agency executives say they're aware of deals as low as $1.7 million for the Super Bowl, although they believe the average price is probably what Fox is claiming.

"I think that could be the case if you take the early units that went in with advertisers that wanted certain positioning within the first and second quarters," says Mel Berning, head of national broadcast buying for Mediavest, New York. "But there's a range of pricing, and there will continue to be a range of pricing as you get down to kick-off on Feb. 3."

Nesvig figures that, if it were not for the Salt Lake City Olympics in February, the Super Bowl would be sold out by now.

"The Olympics," adds Berning, "has had a huge impact on all the first-quarter high-ticket sports items."

As to who is advertising, Nesvig declined to name names but said two or three new advertisers have stepped up this year. Still, the game's advertising roster will be heavily weighted by returning Super Bowl clients.

Sources say Budweiser and Pepsi are the two biggest Super Bowl advertisers this year. In dot-coms, Hotjobs.com, Monster.com and E*Trade are returning, but that's about it for the category. General Motors and other car advertisers are also in. The financial-services category is not yet represented in the game this year, although discount broker Charles Schwab is in the pre-game.

The movie category has a big presence, with about all the major studios in, sources say. Post-game, Malcolm in theMiddle
will do a one-hour special; spots selling for $750,000 a unit are almost sold out. Sony Pictures Entertainment has ponied up a premium to be the exclusive movie advertiser in Malcolm, company sources confirm.