Super Bowl XLII: Most Commercials Likely to Air in HD

While Fox Sports has exclusive telecast rights this Sunday to Super Bowl XLII, an executive at ESPN is predicting that as much as 80 percent of the several dozen commercials aired during the pre-game, game and post-game shows will be aired in HD, even though a majority of American TV sets have not yet jumped up 1080i or 720p. (Both Fox and ESPN use 720p as their preferred transmission standard).

Bryan Burns, ESPN vice president for strategic planning & development, recently cited some industry research indicating that ads produced and aired in HD have up to three times the brand recognition of traditional SD spots. Perhaps more startling, according to published reports, was his statement that ESPN’s audience among cable viewers in the Los Angeles market (DMA no. 2) is more than 20 percent higher in HD homes than in SD dwellings. (Burns was featured in HD Notebook’s weekly Q&A discussing other HD issues Jan 23, 2008.)

HD ads, Burns said, also grows intent-to-buy by up to 55 percent. While nearly 60 percent of ads on ESPN’s Monday Night Football currently air in HD, Burns guesstimates that four out of five Super Bowl spots on Sunday will be featured in HD. Fox, for its part, did not respond to inquiries in recent days about the technical or monetary specifics of Super Bowl XLII commercials (although it had confirmed published reports that it will not sell ad time to any of the presidential candidates, which would have afforded the hopefuls the largest TV audience of the long campaign).

According to the Consumer Electronic Association, more than half (57 percent) of HD owners said they will go online after Sunday’s game to, among other things, re-watch the more memorable television commercials.

Nielsen plans to begin compiling HD sports ratings (and other HD fare) in some major markets by the summer.