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Volume 20 No. 45
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New NBC ad sales chief sees portfolio potential

Under new leadership, NBC Sports’ ad sales group is set to hit the market with new pitches in the coming months. Dan Lovinger took over last month as NBC’s head of sports sales after heading up entertainment sales for NBCUniversal. He plans to train the sports sales team to broaden its conversations to include NBC’s entertainment shows.

Such a move fits with Lovinger’s background, which includes everything from selling Cartoon Network into Europe to selling ads for MTV’s properties.

“That scope is going to be welcomed by a lot of the folks that just typically look at us as sports sales,” he said. “That is what we do. But a lot of our advertising partners want a fuller conversation and a fuller picture of how NBCUniversal can be a more user-friendly partner.”

Lovinger replaced Seth Winter, a well-liked executive who ran sports ad sales for 10 years, who will remain as an NBC consultant through 2018.

Lovinger believes NBC can grow sales around marquee properties like the NFL, Olympics, NHL and the Premier League by highlighting hit shows such as “The Voice” and “This Is Us.”

Lovinger foresees sales growth around sports properties by promoting the network’s hit TV shows.
Photo by: NBC
“What makes NBC Sports special is the fact that we can aggregate all of those audiences and we can leverage and push those into an even broader portfolio in prime time or in cable,” he said. “If you’re a marketer and your time is valuable and your funds are limited, the most important thing you can do is leverage your spend in as many ways as possible. … It’s not just our sports on their own. It’s how they play into the portfolio to deliver great value to our advertisers.”

In his first on-the-record comments since taking the new job in October, Lovinger outlined aspects of his approach.

What’s the state of the ad market today?

LOVINGER: Coming out of what was an enormously strong upfront, the fourth quarter has been average. But when you combine the scatter market with the upfront and look at the overall spending, it’s still robust. The marketplace overall is in a good place. There have been some delivery issues in pockets — sports is not the only place.

The fourth quarter is only average? Why?

LOVINGER: In the most recent short term, there was a little bit of hesitation in fourth-quarter scatter probably tied to the election. It’s not uncommon during an election year to see advertisers hold back. But we’re already starting to see signs of those things loosening.

Are you concerned with the drop in NFL ratings?

LOVINGER: If people are looking for ratings, we’ve got them in sports, and we’ve got them across our entire portfolio. If there was any jittery sentiment coming from advertisers, it was related to the economy and the election and not the NFL’s ratings.

Why are NFL ratings down?

LOVINGER: I don’t think anybody has the silver bullet answer. The reality is that there was a lot of preoccupation in America with this election. When you look across the first 10 weeks, at this point last year, the NFL had a unique reach of about 179 million viewers [across all its media partners]. It’s the same exact number at this point this year. The reach is still there. People are still interested in the product. What’s down slightly is the number of telecasts that the average viewer is watching. It’s down from what was 12.9 tune-ins last year to 11.6 this year. The frequency is off a little bit.

Are there too many NFL windows?

LOVINGER: Twitter obviously is a new entrant. The scale of the Twitter opportunity is not a meaningful one in terms of either taking viewers or associated ad revenue with it, at least not yet.

John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.