NBC says sold 85 pct of 2009 Super Bowl commercials

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC Universal, fresh off its record-setting Olympic coverage, has sold 85 percent of the commercial time available for the 2009 Super Bowl, with a dozen spots selling for $3 million each.

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is reflected in the Vince Lombardi Trophy as he answers questions at a news conference in Phoenix, February 1, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The media company majority-owned by General Electric Co said on Thursday advertisers have scooped up all but 10 spots for the National Football League’s championship game scheduled to take place in Tampa Bay, Florida on February 1.

NBC Universal said it expects to sell those remaining 30-second commercial slots for at least $3 million each.

Overall, advertising executives say, average prices for the game are up about 10 percent from a year ago, when they averaged around $2.7 million. That Super Bowl was broadcast by News Corp’s Fox.

By early fall, about 50 percent of the commercial time for the Super Bowl is usually sold, but the pace has been particularly quick this year despite concerns about marketing budgets during the economic downturn.

Similarly, commercial time for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing -- also broadcast by NBC Universal in the United States -- sold out more quickly than normal, underscoring the recent push by advertisers to spend marketing dollars on the biggest TV events of the year.

The Olympic Games scored record audiences, while the 2008 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots was the most-watched NFL championship in history.

Big-event broadcasts such as the Olympics, Super Bowl and Academy Awards command top dollar from advertisers because they represent one of the few programming choices that consistently draw mass audiences.

Moreover, viewers tend to watch such broadcasts in real time, rather than on digital video recording devices that allow viewers to skip through commercials.

News of the brisk Super Bowl ad sales was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

GE owns 80 percent of NBC Universal, with the remainder held by Vivendi SA.

Reporting by Paul Thomasch; editing by Gunna Dickson