Commercial time in the Super Bowl has been creeping up over the past decade, culminating in almost 48 minutes' worth of ads and network promotions during last year's game, according to a study of Super Bowl advertising from 2001 through 2010 by Kantar Media.
CBS's 2010 Super Bowl telecast contained 47 minutes and 50 seconds of advertising, commercial messages from the NFL and network promos, more than any year studied in the survey, Kantar said. A total of 104 individual messages aired, making it the first Super Bowl telecast to exceed 100. The 2001 game, by comparison, included 82 commercial messages that totaled 40 minutes and 15 seconds.
The games from 2001 through 2010 accounted for 425 minutes, or more than seven hours, of commercial time, comprising 850 commercial messages worth some $1.62 billion, according to Kantar.
Network TV Commercials in the Super Bowl
Ad Time (mm:ss)
# of Ad Messages
Source: Kantar Media Intelligence
While networks were once largely content to use the Super Bowl to draw a big audience to whatever show they scheduled after the game -- this year Fox is giving "Glee" the coveted slot after the game -- they're also confronting skyrocketing rights fees by trying to use the game to promote the rest of the schedules. They're trying harder to come up with stunts for their promos that will attract attention just like regular Super Bowl commercials, such as CBS's spot for "The Late Show with David Letterman" last year that featured Mr. Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno.
So it's not hard to believe that TV networks themselves are often the biggest users of Super Bowl ad time. Despite the prices that networks charge for Super Bowl commercials -- Fox sought between $2.8 million and $3 million for 30 seconds in this year's broadcast -- networks have been using some 15% to 20% of the available ad time to promote themselves, Kantar calculated. Recent years' high-water mark came in 2007, when CBS devoted 9 minutes and 35 seconds to network promos, 22.2% of the game's overall ad time. Last year's game included 8 minutes 15 seconds of network promos, 17.2% of the total and the equivalent of $49.1 million worth of commercial time.
Network Self-Promotion in the Super Bowl
% of All Ad Time
Source: Kantar Media
Fox sold out the bulk of its inventory for this year's broadcast, scheduled for Feb. 6, all the way back in October. While some blue-chip members of the Super Bowl ad roster -- including GM, Pepsi and Federal Express -- had tamped down or canceled their appearances in the big game for the past two years, many of them are back in full force, with GM expected to draw attention to Chevrolet and PepsiCo planning seven commercials this year. Only FedEx has yet to return to the game.
Top 5 Super Bowl Advertisers 2001-2010
# of Years With Ads In Game
Ad Spend (millions)
Walt Disney Co.
General Motors Corp.
Top 5 Total
Source: Kantar Media