Photographer:  Daniel Acker/Bloomberg 

NBC Sees $1.4 Billion in Ad Sales for Super Bowl, Winter Games

Updated on
  • Olympics ad prices are up from last winter games, network says
  • Network markets broadcast, online viewers as ‘total audience’

NBC expects $1.4 billion in ad revenue from the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, the payoff for its huge investment in sports programming.

The figure includes $900 million for the Olympics in South Korea, which start Feb. 9. Ad prices are running higher than the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia, NBC executives said Thursday on a conference call. Comcast Corp.’s entertainment division is charging more than $5 million for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl, in line with the past couple of years.

Ratings for live sports, including the Olympics and pro football, have declined in an era when viewers have so many choices for entertainment, from Snapchat to YouTube. But they still let advertisers reach tens of millions of viewers at once, and networks compete fiercely for the rights to big games. NBC has the Olympics through 2032 as part of a $12 billion deal, and it’s one of three networks that will take turns carrying the Super Bowl through 2022.

Fox, which aired the Super Bowl last year, reaped $500 million in ad sales from the game, selling 30-second spot for about $5 million each. That game, a wild comeback victory by the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons, drew an estimated audience of 111.3 million viewers, down slightly from the year before.

Super Bowl advertisers haven’t expressed concern about ratings declines for regular-season NFL games, said Dan Lovinger, executive vice president for ad sales at NBC Sports Group, and are enthusiastic about the Feb. 4 telecast. The average audience for a regular season game declined 9.7 percent from 2016, according to Nielsen data.

Transcendent Game

“The game almost transcends the season,” Lovinger said. “It’s the only environment where viewers admit they look forward as much to the commercials as the content itself.”

NBC’s Super Bowl inventory isn’t sold out, though only a “a handful” spots are left. Automakers and Hollywood studios are two of the biggest advertisers this year. NBC is also selling digital-only advertising packages for the game for the first time. 

While the TV audience for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro declined, NBC’s ad strategy for the upcoming games relies on what the network calls “total audience delivery” in case more people watch online. For example, if the network guarantees an advertiser 1 million Olympics viewers over the games, it can meet that promise with 800,000 TV viewers and 200,000 digital viewers, or some other combination.

“This gives us a little flexibility to take advantage of those changes in viewership habits,” Lovinger said. “A viewer is really a viewer.”

The network has also signed an accord that will let Snap Inc. share clips of NBC’s Olympics coverage, similar to a deal for the 2016 games.

NBC said this is the first time in history that one media company has had both events so close together.

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