Fox struggles to sell Super Bowl spots

NEW YORK - With only two weeks to go before the biggest sporting and advertising event in the US calendar, Fox TV has so far failed to sell all of the advertising spots available.

The Super Bowl is usually sold out in terms of advertising at least a month before kick-off, but the effects of the downturn are biting hard, making Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans another victim of the weak ad market.

So far, Fox has signed up advertisers including Anheuser-Busch, AT&T Wireless, E*Trade, General Motors,, Levi Strauss and for the February 3 game, but it still has around 10% of its inventory which remains unsold.

In previous years, US TV networks have been able to charge advertisers a considerable premium for airtime during the Super Bowl.

At the height of the dotcom boom, internet dollars forced the average price of a 30-second Super Bowl spot up 40% to a record £1.5m. Last year, when the game was broadcast on rival CBS, the average price dropped back to £1.4m. In the post-September 11 world of 2002, Fox is only able to charge advertisers around £1m for each 30-second spot.

With 10% of airtime still unsold, Fox may have to drop its prices even further if it wants to attract advertisers. In lean times, this could give some advertisers a bargain entry into the homes of the millions of Americans who will be tuning in.

Fox's situation could be much worse. The Super Bowl usually takes place in January, but because of the September 11 attacks, the NFL moved the event to February, giving Fox an extra week or so to sell its airtime.

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