Fox Pulls Miller Ads from Super Bowl Pre-Game

By Mark Weinraub

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Television network Fox has decided against broadcasting three Miller Lite commercials it had approved for airing during the Super Bowl pregame show on Sunday, the network said on Friday.

The three commercials poke fun at rival Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc.’s new Budweiser Select beer, which is being heavily promoted during the football game itself. The Miller spots were approved by Fox’s standards and practices committee but later vetoed by its sales department, a source familiar with the situation said.

Fox said it would not run commercials portraying Anheuser-Busch, which bought the most Super Bowl advertising time this year, in a negative light, said Jon Nesvig, president of advertising sales at Fox.

“The decision was made to reject these specific ads based on the degree of spending Anheuser-Busch has achieved in support of Fox and the Super Bowl,” Nesvig said in a statement.

Anheuser-Busch, which is the largest in-game advertiser, is the only brewer scheduled to air commercials across the United States during the actual Super Bowl game, which is the biggest stage for advertisers. Fox sold 30-second spots for up to $2.4 million this year.

Although Miller’s commercials will not be part of the national broadcast on Sunday, the brewer said it has bought commercial time with some local affiliate stations during the game. The decision to use local affiliates came after its ads were pulled from the pregame show. “It appears to us that Anheuser-Busch is trying to bully us out of the pregame on Super Bowl Sunday,” Miller spokesman Pete Marino said. “But we remain confident that our message about new Bud will be well heard and well understood.”

A Fox spokesman declined to comment on if the network consulted with Anheuser-Busch about the decision.

A representatives from Anheuser-Busch was not immediately available to comment.

Anheuser-Busch and Miller, which is a unit of SABMiller Plc, have been vying for U.S. market share, a battle that has spilled onto the airwaves through commercials. Both brewers have poked fun at the other’s products in their advertising.

In January, ABC and its sister cable network ESPN rejected three Anheuser-Busch commercials spoofing Miller advertising campaigns. That move came after the major TV networks pulled three Miller Lite commercials, saying they were too disparaging of Bud Light.

In 2004, Miller filed a lawsuit against its bigger rival, claiming the company was making “false and misleading statements” in its advertising.