Super Bowl ads are getting costlier more quickly than ever -- and more numerous.
With some ads on CBS selling for up to $4 million this year vs. $3.5 million last year on NBC, the cost of 30-second Super Bowl spots is growing at three to five times the rate it did a decade ago, according to a 10-year study by research firm Kantar Media.
The price of Super Bowl slots has jumped $300,000 to $500,000 annually in recent years compared with the $100,000 annual increase that was more common a decade ago.
"No one is holding a gun to the heads of these advertisers," says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar. "Clearly, these are price increases the market is willing to bear."
If the trend continues, the first $5 million Super Bowl commercial could emerge by 2016, he says. Super Bowl slots fetch about twice the cost of the second-most-costly ad time -- the Academy Awards, he says, which go for about $1.8 million this year.
CBS reported a sell-out of its Super Bowl ad time last week.
One reason for the price hikes -- and the sell-outs: Folks watch them. Unlike in any other show, Super Bowl advertisers get an audience that stays around during the commercials.
Last year, only seven of every 1,000 viewers turned the station during Super Bowl commercial breaks, Swallen says. That's about one-fifth of the "tune-away" rate for commercials aired during normal TV programming, Swallen says.
After all, Swallen says, with 110 million viewers, half of Super Bowl watchers are tuning in for the ads.
So it should be no surprise that the number -- and total running time -- of Super Bowl ads keeps growing.
The past three Super Bowls have been the most ad-saturated ever, says Swallen, with each containing more than 47 minutes of ad time. That is not just paying sponsors, but also "house ads" that networks air to promote their own shows.
The number of paid commercials keeps growing, with NBC airing 62 during last year's game, totaling 40.5 minutes of ad time. That compares with 36.45 minutes of ad time a decade earlier in 2002.
There's another reason for the commercial creep: rising costs.
The fees that the National Football League charges the networks to broadcast the Super Bowls keep rising. So the networks not only charge more for the ads, but also often air more of them to recoup the costs, says Swallen.
The risk for advertisers, he warns: Their ads may get lost in the clutter.
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