NBC Predicts Double-Digit Rise in Winter Olympics Ad Sales

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NBC expects ad revenue in its upcoming coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics to surpass the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by a low double-digit percentage, and says commercial time in the Super Bowl is "extraordinarily well sold."

"Our marketplace is healthy and sales for both Super Bowl and Winter Olympics games is brisk," Dan Lovinger, executive VP of advertising sales at NBC Universal Sports Group, said during a press call on Monday.

It's unusual for one network to have both the Olympics and the Super Bowl to sell in the same year. Nor are the events usually so close together. The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, open just five days after Super Bowl LII.

While Lovinger didn't say exactly how much of NBC's inventory in the Super Bowl is sold, he did say only a handful of units remain. Units in what are considered priority positioning are nearly all sold out, he said.

Thirty-second ads in the game, which will air on Feb. 4, are averaging a price north of $5 million, according to Lovinger. "We are confident we will sell out of the Super Bowl prior to the game for sure," he said.

Lovinger's comments were much more optimistic than the tone of his predecessor, Seth Winter, the last time NBC aired the Super Bowl, in 2015. At that time, the peacock didn't officially announce that it had sold out of commercial time until just days before kick-off.

While Lovinger says advertisers are interested a bit earlier this year, he said he isn't rushing to announce that the network is sold out Super Bowl ad time early—he doesn't get a prize if he does, he said.

Technology, automotive, and retail marketers are extremely active for both the Super Bowl and Olympics, Lovinger said. Movie studios are particularly strong for the Super Bowl, although Lovinger said he anticipates interest to grow in that category for the Olympics as well.

Lovinger said NBC is not currently discussing airing six-second ads, which have become a hot topic in the TV industry as it attempts to keep viewers' attention during ad breaks, during the Super Bowl. While he would consider it, he said "the economics need to work" given the limited opportunities to slice up inventory.

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, the new super-brief ad format looks likely to appear. "We anticipate we'll do some six-second ads in the Olympics," Lovinger said. "I think there are some natural transition points from a programming perspective, as we move from event to event, or from the anchor desk out to a venue."

NBC Universal said it sold $800 million in advertising for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, a record at that time for the winter games. NBC sold roughly $750 million in ads for the 2010 Vancouver and 2002 Salt Lake City games.

While there a handful of ad slots available in the Opening Ceremonies, Lovinger says most of those are sold out.

In the previous two winter and summer games, NBC has fallen short of its ratings guarantees to advertisers. For 2018, Lovinger said NBC is guaranteeing Olympics viewership a tad below the Sochi games.

The 2014 Sochi Olympics averaged 21.4 million viewers and a 12.3 household rating.

It's important to note that this time around NBC will not be guaranteeing audiences for advertisers based on a household rating, which is how ad inventory in the games is typically sold. It will now include viewing beyond traditional linear TV, counting both the traditional screen and NBC Universal apps, over-the-top devices and other non-traditional platforms.

Its guarantees will rely on its Total Audience Delivery, a metric that blends broadcast and cable primetime deliveries with streaming data, for the first time during the Winter Olympics. It will do this by selling a cumulative P2-plus rating (persons aged two or more) across all platforms.

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