NBC is working up a new play for the Super Bowl.
Eager to generate millions of dollars in revenue from the Big Game, the Comcast-owned media conglomerate is talking to potential advertisers about a price tag of $6 million for a 30-second spot in the event, according to executives familiar with current negotiations, marking a new high-water mark in pricing for Super Bowl commercials. Super Bowl LVI is slated to be broadcast on Feb. 13, 2022, from Inglewood.
NBC is also telling potential sponsors they may have to buy an equal amount of ad inventory in its 2022 broadcast of the Beijing Winter Olympics—scheduled to take place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 of next year—if they want to guarantee prominent placement in its telecast of the gridiron classic, such as the first slot of a commercial break or in the first quarter of the game, these executives told Variety.
NBC declined to comment. The network is pressing for higher prices from advertisers even though the most recent Super Bowl broadcast drew an average of 96.4 million viewers—the smallest audience for the game since 2007.
It is not uncommon for the network broadcasting the Super Bowl to press advertisers for a bigger commitment to other commercial inventory, but the arrangement being discussed illustrates just how much premium ad inventory NBC must sell over the next several months. The company will broadcast the Tokyo Olympics in July, followed by the Super Bowl in February and the Beijing extravaganza. That’s no easy task, and the daunting amount of ad time that needed to be sold may have played a role in NBCUniversal’s brisk upfront sales process, which company CEO Jeff Shell said on Monday had recently been completed.
The TV industry’s advance sales effort continues, but there are already indications that sports are proving to be a significant driver of business. Disney has wrapped its upfront sales talks, and saw most of its growth come in ad dollars committed to digital venues and live sports events, according to people familiar with the matter.
By asking for $6 million—as is always the case, the price of a Super Bowl ad is fungible, depending on the client doing the buying and the amount of time they ultimately intend to purchase—NBC is betting that it can ride a renewed wave of enthusiasm from Madison Avenue for live sports, and the big audiences they attract all at once. As more traditional TV viewers migrate to streaming-video services, they are increasingly able to avoid the ads they might have to watch in a linear viewing experience. But most sports broadcasts continue to take place on live TV, and fans seem to tolerate watching a few ads in exchange for the experience.
Still, the cost is high. At $6 million, NBC would be seeking a 9.1% increase over the $5.5 million CBS sought for 30 seconds of ad time in 2021 and Fox pressed for in 2020. CBS’ 2021 broadcast of Super Bowl LV generated approximately $545 million in in-game advertising, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending—a new record. The network ran 96 national and local spots as well as promos, accounting for about 57 minutes’ worth of time.
NBC is in some ways trying to make the best of a chaotic situation. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place last year, but were postponed to 2021 by the coronavirus pandemic. And NBC and CBS swapped the 2021 and 2022 Super Bowl broadcasts so that NBC could better align its 2022 Winter Olympics broadcast with the football championship.
NBC has experience with an Olympics and a Super Bowl that take place right up against one another. In 2018, the Olympics and Super Bowl took place close to one another, and NBC tried to work with sponsors who wanted to try creative concepts that might work in both events.
Some of the nation’s best-known products and brands come out each year to advertise in the Super Bowl in hopes of making a splash among consumers. In 2021, Jeep tapped Bruce Springsteen in a landmark ad, and Procter & Gamble relied on Jason Alexander to boost Tide. Two of the event’s most reliable sponsors, PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev were not able to respond immediately to queries seeking comment about their Super Bowl ad plans in 2022.