The Super Bowl broadcast ranks as one of the few TV events during which people will actually stick around to watch the commercials -- and that hasn't escaped the bean-counters at the top networks. A 30-second ad hasn't only reached record prices, quadrupling during the past 20 years to $3 million each for the 2009 game, but the time allotted to ads has also expanded to a record, according to a study from ad researcher TNS Media Intelligence. Still, the trend toward higher prices may be broken this year because of the recession, the researcher adds.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%Last year's Super Bowl telecast on NBC set aside a record 45 minutes and 5 seconds of air time for commercials, which ranged from paying sponsors to house ads promoting the network's own shows, TNS says in its study. By comparison, the 2002 telecast included 36 minutes of commercial time, ranking as the smallest during the past 10 years, the study says. Remember, that broadcast came after the dot-com bust. During the prior boom, those companies had fueled much of the spending on Super Bowl broadcasts in the preceding years.

Like 2002, this year's broadcast may be crimped by the economy. CBS, which will telecast the 2010 Super Bowl on Feb. 7, is reportedly selling 30-second time slots for between $2.5 million to $2.8 million, down from the $3 million scored in 2009, TNS Media says. But despite a gloomy economy and price pressure, CBS is close to selling out its 62 ad slots, USA Today reported earlier this month.

So who will be buying time for this year's game? Some of the telecast's bread-and-butter advertisers are staying away, including PepsiCo (PEP), General Motors and FedEx (FDX). Typically as many as a quarter of the game's advertisers are new to the telecast, TNS note. This year's game has attracted newbies such as Electronic Arts (ERTS) and HomeAway, a vacation rental service, TNS says.

During the past 20 years, Super Bowls have produced $2.17 billion in ad sales for the top broadcasters, representing more than 1,400 commercial messages and 210 advertisers. Think beer companies or soda makers are the biggest advertisers? Think again, TNS says. The leading advertiser is the network itself, which takes as much as one-quarter of the commercial time to tout its own shows.

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