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How much do Super Bowl commercials really cost?

If you've heard a ridiculously high number before, it was probably correct.

It's probably safe to say that many of those tuning in to watch Super Bowl 49 on Sunday will be fans of the New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks, or at least football in general. However, there are also viewers who will watch for other reasons. The spectacle of the Super Bowl draws all kinds, including those just interested in things like the halftime show or commercials.

Super Bowl commercials are a time-honored tradition of spectacle and expense. Advertisers spend a ton of money putting together their ads, trying to find the perfect balance between actually getting their message across and leaving a lasting impression, usually with over-the-top humor or some level of shock.

But how much does it really cost to get those ads on the air? Specifically, what does a company have to pay the network -- in this case, NBC -- to get its time to shine? Last year the figure of $4 million was thrown around a lot, and that was more or less accurate. In other words, $4 million bought one 30-second ad unit, and double that bought a 60-second ad unit.

Bigger companies who buy multiple units will get discounts and pay significantly less than the $4 million, though we'll likely never have any true idea how those particular deals work out. But by and large, that number is pretty darn close to accurate. And it's going to rise this year.

This year, the cost is right around $4.5 million for a 30-second spot, according to NBC, via The Wall Street Journal. Generally, we can assume that a company buying one or two units paid something close to that number to get a spot. That number is likely a bit higher if the ad is in the first or final quarter, as those are the premium spots, and it's likely a bit lower for, again, companies that buy more ad spots.

But are advertisers getting their money's worth? They won't know until the viewership numbers come out for the Super Bowl. Last year, Super Bowl 48 had a record average audience of 112.2 million viewers, and generated $331.8 million in advertising spending, according to Forbes. That comes out to $3 of advertising spending per viewer, which is the number that the companies really care about.

So, according to the Forbes piece, if the spending for the Super Bowl has increased at a specific rate and the price of advertising also has, we can come up with an advertising spending number in the area of $359 million. That would mean, again as the Forbes piece notes, that advertisers are hoping for at least 120 million viewers on average, a tall task.