SBD/February 6, 2013/Media

NBC Expects Sochi Games To Be Profitable, Will Air Extra Night Of Primetime Coverage

A dozen new Olympic events are being introduced by the IOC at the Sochi Games
NBC expects the ‘14 Sochi Games to be profitable, a marked reversal from the $223M loss from the '10 Vancouver Games reported by former network owner GE. Speaking during a press conference yesterday, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said Olympic advertising sales are "pacing extremely well." He added, "This will be a very good moment (financially) for our company." Lazarus said the net's ad sales and distribution deals, including a first-ever Winter Olympics deployment of every event live on digital platforms, have made it possible to avoid similar losses in Sochi. NBC's sales team has benefited from having an extra night of primetime programming to sell. The IOC added a dozen new sports events, such as snowboard slopestyle and team figure skating, and needed to expand the Olympics from 17 to 18 days in order to schedule the competitions. As a result, NBC yesterday announced that its primetime coverage of the Sochi Games will begin a day earlier than usual. The network will air team figure skating, women's moguls, and snowboard slopestyle, featuring Shaun White, on Feb. 6. The Opening Ceremony will take place the next day, and NBC execs believe the additional day of broadcasting will help boost viewership for the Sochi Games. NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said, “It’s terrific to have this special added night of primetime Thursday, and to do so with one of these exciting sports the IOC added to the menu (like snowboard slopestyle) … will give us a unique opportunity to kick things off and set up the Opening Ceremony the following night in a big way” (Mickle & Fisher, Staff Writers).

EXTRA NIGHT NOT PART OF RATINGS: Lazarus said that the network's "rating and viewership for the added night would not be included in its cumulative 17-night performance, in part because there were no comparisons to past Olympics." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the Thursday primetime coverage could "draw a favorable rating," but if it is "disappointing, NBC will not have to add it to its overall rating." All the events from Sochi "will be shown live at NBCOlympics.com, and more than half the events, including every United States hockey game and curling match, will be shown live somewhere" on NBC's family of networks. However, the "nine-hour time difference" between Sochi and the east coast of the U.S. "means that the prime-time broadcasts will be shown on a delay" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). It will be similar to the strategy NBC used last summer in covering the ’12 London Games, withholding some marquee events for primetime broadcasts but offering every event live digitally. NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, "The word of this Olympics to me is circulation." He added, "What we validated in London was the more we made Olympic content available across platforms the more ultimately television viewing we realized" (Mickle & Fisher). 

NAME THAT TUNE: A major Olympics tune-in/One-Year-Out marketing campaign will begin tonight when NBC airs a 60-second promo spot for the Sochi Games across all 19 of its affiliated broadcast and cable networks. The spot will air in the 8:00pm hour and it also will air on 33 non-NBC channels through Comcast's ad sales division. More than 75,000 tune-in spots will air on cable, satellite and telecommunications networks over the next year. Also planned is a 14 foot-by-56 foot temporary ski slope constructed in Rockefeller Plaza in N.Y. for use on "Today." NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller estimated that every person in the U.S. will see a tune-in spot 25 times between now and the Opening Ceremony next year. He added that NBC research shows that more than 70% of U.S. viewers intend to watch the Olympics. That number is up from the 60% of viewers who intended to watch the London and Vancouver Games, and it is more than 20% higher than the tune-in number for most entertainment programs. Miller said, "That's higher than I've ever seen. I can tell you among people interested in the Olympics that they are really ready for Sochi to come."

HOPEFUL OF NHL PARTICIPATION: The NHL still has not committed to participate in the Olympics, but Lazarus expressed optimism that it would show up. He said that IIHF President Rene Fasel and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were expected to meet in the coming weeks. NBC plans to show the Gold Medal men’s hockey game at 8:00am ET on Feb. 23, 2014. The Vancouver Gold Medal game, which featured Canada beating the U.S. in overtime, delivered a 15.2 final Nielsen rating (27.6 million viewers), marking the highest-rated and most-viewed hockey game of any kind since the U.S.-Finland Gold Medal game from the '80 Lake Placid Games (Mickle & Fisher).

VONN WITH THE WIND? Gold Medal-winning U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee and broke her right leg following a crash during a race in Austria yesterday, putting her participation in the Sochi Games in doubt. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Vonn missing the Olympics "hurts the American viewing audience and it hurts Lindsay Vonn and all the corporate sponsors who invest in her because she is maybe the greatest Winter Olympic athlete America has right now.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser added, “She’s certainly the only one anybody’s ever heard of right now.” But Wilbon said the loss of Vonn “is not like Usain Bolt being out of the Olympics, where literally something happens to the dynamic of the competition." Kornheiser said if Vonn misses Sochi, it is "not going to hurt the ratings at all because people watch the Winter Olympics and they root for the flag, they don’t root for the people” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/5). NBC’s Chris Jansing noted the U.S. Olympic Team “believes she will make a comeback in time” for Sochi ("Nightly News,” NBC, 2/5). Last night’s editions of ABC’s “World News,” CBS’ “Evening News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” all aired short reports on Vonn’s crash (THE DAILY).
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