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Expectations for the Super Bowl have rarely been higher, what with the New England Patriots attempting to close off an undefeated season and the New York Giants, one of the NFL's storied franchises, hoping to be the spoiler.

The television networks, of course, are moving to capitalize on the interest.

In Canada, CTV has increased the cost of a 30-second commercial spot by about 10 per cent from last year, according to advertising sources, although that price would have been set long before the network knew the Super Bowl matchup.

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CTV is charging $110,000 for a spot, up from Global Television's $100,000 last year. As well, CTV is offering fewer advertising discounts than Global, advertising sources said.

However, with the Super Bowl a little more than a week away, CTV has not yet sold all of its ad time.

Rita Fabian, the executive vice-president of sales and marketing for CTV, wouldn't comment on the numbers, but said sales have exceeded expectations by a double-digit percentage.

"We still have a few last-minute deals that we're working on, and we do expect a full sellout," she said. "It's looking really great and all the major sponsors are back."

In the United States, Fox had sold out for the Super Bowl by late November. The cost of a 30-second spot ranged from $2.7-million (U.S.) to $3-million, up from CBS's $2.6-million last year.

Increased U.S. advertising interest is due to large buys made by Hollywood studios, which are releasing more movies than usual. And the Hollywood writers' strike, which has made a wasteland of prime-time TV, has forced advertisers to look for alternative properties, such as the Super Bowl.

Burke to Leafs

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TSN's Mike Milbury says Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke - first on the fan wish list of Maple Leafs managing prospects - wants the job and will take it if (and it's a big one) he is assured he will not see or hear from Richard Peddie outside board meetings. Peddie is the president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Leafs.

Milbury, by the way, may know more than he's revealing about Burke's interest. He spent time with Burke last week in Toronto when they were shooting TSN's Off The Record.

But Burke's contract with the Ducks runs through 2008-09. What, TSN's Bob McKenzie asked, if ownership refused to let him go? The likely answer: If he really wanted to go, the Ducks wouldn't stop him. Were his release denied, the Leafs could wait till the summer of 2009 to sign him. Interim GM Cliff Fletcher would run the hockey operation until then.

One of the points made by Milbury is that Burke's wife, Jennifer Mather, was a prominent radio personality in Vancouver before the move to Anaheim. In Toronto, she could resume her broadcasting career.

Burke will appear with Ron MacLean on the Hockey Night in Canada pregame show tomorrow.

NFL numbers

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  • CTV, in its first year as a carrier of the NFL 1 p.m. Eastern time regular-season game, averaged 339,000 viewers a telecast, down 10 per cent from Global's 378,000 last season. In the postseason, CTV, which aired all the games except for one on TSN, averaged 993,000, up 2 per cent from Global's 974,000 in the postseason, not counting the Super Bowl.
  • Super Bowl advertisers confirmed by CTV are: Labatt Breweries, Rogers, Nissan, Disney, Under Armour (a sports apparel company), Best Buy, Mazda Canada, Campbell Soup, Ford of Canada, and Monster.ca.
  • A new shootout contest, not unlike the NBA's slam-dunk event, will be a highlight of tomorrow night's NHL all-star skills show. The skaters, who can start from anywhere on the ice, will be awarded points for style. Judges will include former NBA star Dominique Wilkins.
  • Versus owns exclusive cable rights to NHL games in the United States. However, Marc Fein, the senior vice-president of programming and production for Versus, said yesterday the network was open to discussing the return of ESPN2 as a carrier next season. He said: "We are the exclusive home of hockey on cable. With that being said, if the NHL ever did come to us and want to have that discussion, we would sit down and listen."
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