SBD/January 24, 2014/Media

NBC Seeing Ad Revenue Grow, Expects Sochi Games Telecasts To Turn Profit

NBC Broadcasting Chair Ted Harbert said that company execs expect the broadcast of the Sochi Games "to be profitable," according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. Harbert said that despite the reported $775M cost to land the event, the cost, in a "fragmented TV-watching universe where few events can deliver huge audiences on the scale broadcasters experienced when just three TV networks dominated the landscape, the Olympics are a must-have." NBC's ad sales staff "has spent months wooing sponsors." NBCUniversal President of Ad Sales Linda Yaccarino said, "There is more demand out there than we could accommodate." She added the company has sold "significantly more than $800 million" in ads. Yaccarino "won’t say the event is sold out, but she acknowledges the company is measuring the scatter market ... for spots during the Games." Steinberg notes with the "kind of big-event ratings the Olympics routinely earn, the Games’ promotional value needs to be maximized." NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller said NBCU execs determined which front-burner projects have the "greatest financial benefit to the company." Late night shows are "viewed as a top priority, along with the second half of NBC’s season and 'Today'" (VARIETY.com, 1/23). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi cites a Kantar Media report as showing that the total volume of commercial time during the Sochi Games "could add up to as much as 5,500 minutes," and NBC is likely to have "set aside some 91.7 hours for sponsor messages in this year's telecasts." NBCU could be "on track to rake in around" $1.05B in overall ad sales revenue, an estimate arrived at "by multiplying the average cost of a 30-second spot in the 2002-10 Games ($95,500) by Kantar’s prediction that as many as 11,000 30-second units were carved out of the Sochi coverage." The $1.05B projection would "eclipse the previous high-water mark for a Winter Games" (ADWEEK.com, 1/23).

TOUCHY SUBJECTS: NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel on Thursday said that he was "confident with the amount and type of security in Sochi, where terrorists have threatened to disrupt the Winter Games." MULTICHANNEL NEWS' John Eggerton notes that security "will include background checks for everyone attending." Zenkel praised Russia's "fantastic cooperation" over the past few years as the Games came together. He added that he hoped to get Russia President Vladimir Putin to" sit down and talk about that 'incredible journey.'" NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said that he would "have to wait and see what impact all that security would have on the American public's viewing experience." Bell: "There has to be, we hope, that balance between the security which everyone expects and wants to be very rigorous, but not to the degree that it stifles people's enjoyment of the games." Zenkel said that he "did not think it would adversely affect viewership" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/23). Meanwhile, VARIETY's Brian Lowry noted NBC Sports has "pledged not to ignore the anti-gay laws in its coverage, and critics should hold the network's feet to the fire given the rather large dog NBC has in the fight" (VARIETY.com, 1/23).

JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH: NBC's Bell projected confidence that live streaming the Games "will not cannibalize primetime viewership numbers when Olympic coverage kicks off Feb. 6." He said it is not a concern "especially given the results of London." The takeaway there was that people "live streaming during the day were actually more likely to watch in primetime later." Bell did acknowledge execs are unsure whether ratings for Sochi will beat the '10 Vancouver Games. Bell: "In Vancouver, we had the ability to be live ... and that's a pretty special thing." But he stressed that the Games "are not just about the ratings." The new platforms "coming into play, the launch of new late night shows and showcasing NBCSN are priorities as well" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/24).

VONN NOT COMPLETELY GONE: In Denver, Joanne Ostrow reported NBC has conceded that U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn "won't be ready to work fulltime as an on-air commentator so soon after her knee injury." However, it sounds like "discussions are ongoing as NBC tries to figure out how to get a glimpse of Vonn on their air during the ratings-rich broadcasts" (DENVERPOST.com, 1/23).
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