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By: Chris Zelkovich
There's a tendency to reject any superlatives tossed around when it comes to a certain football game being played Sunday.
After all, what other event would have the audacity to call itself ``Super" and mark the game with Roman numerals as if it had some biblical connection? Blessed are those who take the underdog?
So when CBS talks about riding a wave of momentum heading into Super Bowl XLIV and says it anticipates monstrous ratings, you have to wonder if this isn't just more Super hype.
But in this case, it appears to be justified. Television ratings have been through the roof all season and that has been magnified in the playoffs. A good game could easily produce an all-time record.
The NFC championship game produced the largest audience in 28 years while the AFC final had the highest ratings in two decades.
"I think the momentum going in ... is pretty extraordinary," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said in a conference call this week.
In Canada, CTV got its biggest NFL playoff audiences ever when the NFC and AFC finals drew 2.6 million and 2.3 million viewers respectively. By comparison, the Canadian Football League West Division final last fall drew 2 million to TSN.
Advertisers have obviously latched on. Both CBS and CTV sold out their ads early, the former at $2.8 million a spot, the latter at $110,000 – the highest on Canadian television.
``We sold out more than two weeks earlier this year," said CTV Sports president Rick Brace. ``Last year we were in the area where we had to do a little bit of discounting. This year there was a minimal rate increase."
That's good news for CTV, but it won't mean much to those who watch the Super Bowl in hopes of seeing just one of the high-priced American ads. This Super Bowl, like most others, will disappoint them once again.
Brace said CTV encourages advertisers to air the U.S. commercials, since many represent the same companies that are showing million-dollar ads south of the border. But in the end, Brace said, it's up to the agencies.
``I think we're getting a few more this year, but you're not going to see the same commercials you see in the U.S.," he said.
The good news is that CTV has 29 advertisers this year, up four from 2009. If nothing else, that means a tad less of the repetitive commercials that drive viewers crazy.
The focus on ads seems a little out of proportion, but the fact is that they're an essential part of the Super Bowl. Without them, the game wouldn't draw such huge ratings in the U.S. because there just aren't that many football fans.
In addition to lining the pockets of the league and networks, the ads provide a convenient distraction, making viewers forget how little playing time there is in the average NFL game.
That's one of the reasons why the Canadian version produces so many complaints. The constant commercial breaks and repetitive ads remind them that as entertainment goes, the Super Bowl often isn't.
CANADIAN CONNECTION: Toronto's Big Studios will again be part of the Super Bowl after it produced the main graphics for CBS. See my blog at www.thestar.blogs.com/sportsmedia for more. ... Here's more evidence of the drawing power of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 28th best team in the NHL: Tuesday's game against New Jersey drew 866,000 viewers to Rogers Sportsnet in Ontario alone, the second-highest regional broadcast in the channel's history. And more: During Tuesday's game the top three tweets in Canada on Twitter were new Leafs Sjostrom, Phaneuf and Giguere. Madness, madness.