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NFL profits from free-to-air broadcasts


UNLIKE the vast majority of the Irish population, PostScript is a huge fan of what's known in these parts as "American Football" so on Monday we read with interest that the biggest advertising event in the sport this year has been booked out already.

The Super Bowl, is of course a red-letter day around the world, and the TV networks, combined with the NFL itself, demand some of the highest fees in the world for the right to a 30-second spot during the game, especially at half-time. Despite the economic downturn, these slots have increased in value, to a record $3.5m (€2.7m) and once again a slew of specially commissioned adverts will greet viewers on February 5.

According to 'The Indianapolis Star', hometown paper of the city where the game is being held, the last of the slots were taken by November.

The 2012 game is sold out, said Seth Winter, of sales and marketing at NBC's sports group. All of the 30-second slots were gone by Thanksgiving, he said.

"We have shattered any recent revenue stories in regards to the Super Bowl," he added.

The Super Bowl is truly a one-off event but the NFL does provide an instructive counterpoint to the presumption that sport must follow the money to pay TV in Europe and Ireland if it is to thrive.

The NFL is the biggest sport in the world's biggest economy, but that was not always the case and the league has fuelled its growth in part by continuing to sell its broadcast packages to the 'free-to-air' networks, unlike what rugby and soccer have done over here.

For decades 'football' was routinely the second or third sport in the US behind baseball and, sometimes, basketball. Now, run-of-the-mill NFL matches routinely gain more viewers than baseball's World Series, and despite a hugely damaging players strike during the summer, the major networks plus ESPN and the NFL's own network have agreed to pay an average of $6bn a year for nine years to televise games -- a huge premium on the current deal. If only somebody here was willing to fork out €3.5m for a one- off advertisement during an All-Ireland Final ...

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