It's getting to be like presidential campaigns. No sooner is one over than the next one starts.
With a mere 360 days left until Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off at New Jersey's Meadowlands stadium on February 2, 2014, Fox is already pushing advertisers to buy air time.
Maybe they need to, for two reasons:
First, according to an Advertising Age report yesterday, they may be "seek[ing] to secure an increase in the price of Super Bowl inventory." In simple English, that means to charge even more than CBS's record high pricing this year.
And second, there are good reasons advertisers may be, shall we say, just a little bit hesitant to buy.
More for less?
This year's rate-card rate for the telecast was a record $3.8 million for 30 seconds of air time. According to the network, some advertisers were even willing to pay an even $4 million for preferred positioning.
Generally, broadcast advertising rates are linked to audience size, and this time, for the first time in seven years, the Super Bowl television audience was smaller.
This year's audience of 108.4 million was 2.9 million short of last year's record 111.3 million – a difference larger than the entire population of Chicago.
It was also smaller 2.6 million smaller than in 2010, the last year Fox aired the broadcast.
Advertisers generally don't like to pay more for the privilege of reaching smaller audiences, and another factor may be giving them reason to dislike it even more than usual.
With unemployment up again and the first shrinkage of the GDP since 2008, businesses are watching their pennies.
"The economy is going to play a factor," a Fox executive told Ad Age. "It's hard to justify a big unit rate."
As a result, advertisers are becoming more and more reluctant to commit to huge expenditures – not just $4 million or so for air time, but at least another million or two for creative, production and online tie-ins.
In October, 2010, Fox was able to announce that 2011 Super Bowl air time was all sold four months before game day.
Since then, NBC and CBS were in no position to make similar announcements until weeks before the game – in CBS's case, on January 8.
Historically, Fox has thrown in little extras to sweeten the deal.
In 2007, they partnered with the NFL and MySpace (remember MySpace?) to offer advertisers an extended online presence for movie trailers and the like.
Today everybody has that.
This year, they're trying to package the Super Bowl coverage with NASCAR race broadcasts and their Sports 1 cable channel, an ESPN wannabe that Fox is contemplating building as a line extension of their Speed channel.
Oh, yes – and in sales pitches to advertisers, "Fox executives have cited the New York setting...and the excitement the location will bring to the proceedings."
Of course, unlike the Superdome, in downtown New Orleans on Poydras Street, next year's "New York setting" isn't actually in New York. It's across the Hudson, through Secaucus and, depending on your route, a 13.1-minute to 19.6-minute drive away.
So unless the economy actually starts growing, unless research shows audience size will be up again, and unless advertisers find this year's sweeteners really sweet, the Fox advertising sales team could end up finding itself at third and long as the clock runs down.