SBJ/January 31 - February 6, 2005/SBJ In Depth

Program ad revenue zooms up 25% from last year

The NFL this year has generated 25 percent more advertising revenue than last year from sales into its Super Bowl program, according to NFL senior vice president of new media Chris Russo.

Russo declined to specify revenue figures, but the 75 ad pages in this year’s program sold at an estimated $50,000 per page, projecting to $3.75 million in revenue for a publishing unit that sources said generates annual profits in the low to mid-seven figures. Last year’s Super Bowl program had 56 ad pages, up from 40 pages in 2003.

The NFL is publishing the same number of programs this year as last year (500,000) and charging the same ad rate. This year’s program went on sale last week for $15, promising $7.5 million in revenue for a sellout.

The NFL turned around its formerly break-even publishing business in early 2003, when league officials decided to outsource its Super Bowl program and other publications to third-party publishers. The league put Boston-based publisher H.O. Zimman in charge of producing the Super Bowl programs, partnered with Time Inc. on a record and fact book, and tapped New York-based Scholastic and British company DK Publishing to produce a series of books targeting children.

One of the NFL’s recent publishing efforts, “Favre,” written by Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre and his mother, Bonita, and published by New York-based Rugged Land, had a recent eight-week run on the New York Times best-seller list.

The NFL has sold more than 1 million books since restructuring its publishing business, Russo said. The league’s publishing business before 2003 consisted of only one profitable publication, the Super Bowl program, while several coffee-table books and a quasi-monthly magazine called NFL Insider were perennial money-losers.

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