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Global lowers price of ads as Sunday's big game falls short of being a marquee attraction

The Super Bowl is big, but even giants can be humbled.

Global Television's audience for the 2005 Super Bowl dropped 13 per cent from the previous year and, as a result, the network has reduced its advertising rate.

It is charging $96,350 for a 30-second national spot during the National Football League championship game on Sunday, compared with $99,800 last year.

Global drew an average audience of 3.1 million viewers for the New England Patriots-Philadelphia Eagles game in 2005, down from 3.56 million in 2004 for the Pats-Carolina Panthers.

Super Bowl matchups don't have a huge impact on the amount of money advertisers spend, but the Pittsburgh Steelers-Seattle Seahawks falls short of being a marquee attraction.

The Steelers have some appeal, but the Seahawks offer little.

The two young quarterbacks -- Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck -- do give the networks a story with some resonance.

An advertising source said Global will almost certainly sell out its commercial time.

What's more, ad rates are not firm. Advertisers negotiate discounts based on size of the package and the timing for the sale.

In the United States, the cost of buying a 30-second spot on ABC was set at $2.5-million (U.S.). However, some companies negotiated deals at a much lower price. Nationwide, a U.S. financial services and insurance company, reportedly bought a spot in the third quarter for $1-million.

Thanks a billion

News organizations such as The Detroit News, Vancouver Province and Ottawa Citizen have been reporting that the Super Bowl is watched by one billion people worldwide.

Baloney, says Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated, who writes in the Feb. 6 issue: "Last year, the Super Bowl was watched by 86.1 million Americans, according to Nielsen Media Research, and by 3.1 million Canadians. That makes at least 89.2 million North American viewers, or less than one-tenth of the alleged audience worldwide, where interest in NFL would seem to diminish with distance. Are Johannesburgers really interested in Ben Roethlisberger?"

Not those burgers. A New York research company, Initiative, estimates that 98 per cent of the Super Bowl's worldwide audience is based in North America. Therefore, the total global audience in 2005 was 93 million, which, Rushin notes, fell 907 million short of a billion.

Where did the billion figure come from? The NFL boasts that the Super Bowl reaches a potential audience of one billion.

CBC wins ruling

A new ruling from the federal communications regulator could have a big impact on sports broadcasting in Canada.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a request by the CBC's Country Canada channel to change the way it measures its 10-per-cent limit on sports content.

The 10-per-cent calculation used to be over a week; now, it's over a broadcast year. That change allows Country Canada to save up its sports allotment and use it for big events.

The CBC ran into trouble last year when it aired Scott Tournament of Hearts draws on Country Canada. At least once, the channel had to break away early from a telecast because time had run out.

CTV Specialty and Rogers Media intervened against the CBC application, arguing that Country Canada, either alone or with the CBC, could become a competitive bidder for sports rights.

CTV Specialty has a big investment in sports. It owns TSN as well as ESPN Classic Canada and has a part interest in the NHL Network. Rogers owns Rogers Sportsnet.

Last year, CTV and Rogers teamed up to win Olympic rights for 2010 and 2012, defeating the CBC, which presented a bid without the advantage of owning a sports cable outlet.

The CBC already carries sports content on Country Canada. During this month's Turin Games, the channel will air Nordic events. As the digital universe expands and reaches a large audience, Country Canada will become more useful to the CBC as a second-tier carrier of major sports events.

Chamberlain's 100

Raptors NBA TV will air a 30-minute piece on Wilt Chamberlain's historic 100-point game in 1962 against the New York Knicks. Wilt was with the Philadelphia Warriors at the time and the game was played at Hershey, Pa.

John Shannon, the head of Raptors TV, notes that film of the famous game does not exist. The NBA was able to find radio play by play by Warriors voice Bill Campbell and will use the audio, in the fourth quarter, combined with photographic stills to produce the show.

Interest in Wilt's achievement was sparked by Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's 81 points against the Toronto Raptors last week.

Raptors TV will air the Chamberlain telecast on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST and repeat it on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

whouston@globeandmail.com

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