NBC Universal Still Selling Ad Time for Olympics

Booked an Additional $10M Just This Week

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC Universal says it sold an additional $10 million in TV advertising for the Olympics between Monday and Wednesday of this week. The sales are a sign that the network held back inventory, in the likely hopes that positive ratings would spur additional interest from marketers.
Bob Costas: The official face of NBC's Olympics coverage.
Bob Costas: The official face of NBC's Olympics coverage. Credit: NBC

Executives at the network have noticed interest from retailers, makers of consumer package-goods and movie studios, Seth Winter, senior VP-sales and marketing, NBC Sports & Olympics, said in a statement. Business has come from advertisers who had already bought Olympics time, as well as from new advertisers. More than 100 companies have advertised during NBC's Olympic coverage, NBC said. The network said it sold more than $1 billion in advertising heading into the event.

TV vs. online coverage
Nonetheless, NBC has come under fire for not streaming more events live online. Buyers suspect the network is trying to goose its TV ratings, which bring in substantially more ad dollars. NBC on Aug. 13 released an in-house measure of audience exposure that showed Olympic broadcasts on its cable and broadcast networks accounted for the largest share of audience exposure, by far. On Aug. 11, for instance, Olympic content reached more than 103 million people (not necessarily unduplicated); approximately 92% of those impressions came from TV viewing.

Through five days, NBC Universal said it has attracted 168 million total viewers for the Olympics, nearly 15 million more than the first five days for Athens, which reached 153 million.

Prices for ads will vary, but during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, advertisers paid $350,000 for a 30-second commercial, according to Nielsen Media Research. That figure was slightly more than that of the 2004 opening ceremony in Athens, bringing the cost back up to the level that was seen in 2002. The cost of advertising during the games has increased in the 10 years since 1996, showing an impressive 40% gain from $250,000 for a 30-second ad.

Taking full advantage
NBC has taken full advantage of its being able to draw a large audience, said Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna. The network telecast "has more commercial pods per hour than the typical network drama, but the average pod is significantly shorter," he wrote in a research note today. While the average prime-time broadcast network drama has five commercial pods per hour, the Summer Olympics has so far ranged between six and seven.

Mr. Sternberg said the average commercial pod length has been about 2 minutes, 18 seconds -- a full minute shorter than the average prime-time commercial pod. Most national commercial pods during the Olympics come in at two minutes, 30 seconds, he said.

NBC is also using the occasion to do its own advertising. According to Mr. Sternberg, "NBC has been heavily promoting its new fall series, with 'My Own Worst Enemy' receiving by far the most weight. Traditionally, promoting a new show during the Summer Olympics has not had much impact on the series' success, so it will be interesting to see if that holds up again."

And there are signs the network is using some restraint, letting major advertisers get the best space in certain commercial breaks. "Virtually all local commercial pods start out with a network promo. None of the national pods have network promos in the A position," said Mr. Sternberg.
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