Super Bowl ads yet to sell out

ABC says it has fewer than 10 second-half spots available;

Prices running about $2.2M, 15% over ’02.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – With the Super Bowl under 20 days away, Walt Disney’s ABC unit has yet to sell out its commercial spots for the NFL Championship game, despite a recovering television advertising market, according to a published report Monday.

Firms looking to part with $2.2 million, about 15 percent more than last year’s rates, can still secure a 30-second advertising spot during the Jan. 26 game, but it will air in the less desirable third or fourth quarters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

ABC told the paper that it has fewer than 10 spots remaining. Traditionally the Super Bowl has 61 commercial slots, with the first half spots usually the first to sell out because viewers may tune out if the game is lopsided.

Last year at this time, New Corp.’s (NWS: Research, Estimates) Fox unit sold about 80 percent of its ad spots. Fox didn’t sell 90 percent of its ad spaces until the week before the game and the last slot was sold the Thursday before the Super Bowl, according to the Journal.

“For the last couple of years, there have been some spots left up in the air on a distressed basis,” Jack Myers, a New York consultant to media companies and advertising agencies, told the paper. “But the game continues to be one of the most efficient ways to generate quick awareness among a broad audience, particularly those who don’t watch a lot of TV during the year. So even at its high price, it continues to be attractive.”

Some advertisers returning to the Super Bowl are Anheuser-Busch, Visa and PepsiCo, the paper reported. AT&T Wireless paid $6 million to sponsor the half-time show, according to the Journal.

ABC expects nearly $140 million from ad sales during the Super Bowl, but that may not be enough to cover its costs due to the high rights fees and production expenses, the paper reported.