NBCUniversal projected it would sell more than $1.2 billion in advertising for its 17 days of broadcasts of the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo, citing the event as a rare opportunity for Madison Avenue to reach big audiences without the worry of politics getting in the way of a commercial message.
The Olympics is “one of the most brand-safe environments for [advertisers’] campaigns,” said Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of ad sales for NBC Sports Group, during a conference with reporters Tuesday. “Families and groups gather” to watch the same team, he added. “We are pacing significantly ahead of where we were at this same point prior to the Rio Games” which were held in 2016.
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Lovinger said NBCU was on track “to surpass” its sales goal, which he would not reveal. NBCU sold more than $1.2 billion in national ads for its Rio Olympics telecasts.
Keeping advertisers interested in the Olympics is crucial for the NBCU and its parent, Comcast Corp. Comcast and NBCU are in the midst of a $4.4 billion rights deal that lets them cover the Olympics in the U.S. through 2020, and have already agreed to pay $7.75 billion for broadcast rights to the Olympic Games between 2021 and 2032. NBCU came away from its Rio coverage with approximately $250 million in profit.
The company will be working to sell Olympics ads against two other big TV events: broadcasts of the Republican and Democratic national conventions. In a electronic dispatch sent to clients Tuesday, NBCU says the Olympics “will unite the country,” as it is sandwiched between the Democratic event, which takes place between July 13 and July 16, and the Republican one, which takes place between August 24 and August 27. NBCU’s approximately 7,000 airs of Olympics content will air or stream between July 24 and August 9.
NBCUniversal has made several tweaks to its sales process to ensure revenue even as advertisers have become wary of eroding ratings for primetime events. The company now bases its ad guarantees on the number of people its content reaches, as opposed to a household rating that has often been the norm for TV discussions. For the Tokyo discussions, Lovinger said, NBCU is also offering to make new guarantees based on a particular audience demographic, including viewers between 18 and 49 and viewers between 25 and 54.
“We are trying to democratize access to the Games, so that maybe those who have not bought it in the past because they had to have a demographic guarantee can,” Lovinger said. NBCU is seeing its strongest support for the Olympics from marketers of autos, travel, beverages, technology and financial services, he added. And he said NBCU executives were traveling to Japan to pitch advertisers there who might wish to use the occasion to reach a broad American crowd.
The executive said he believed NBCU would not face one of its usual challenges – time-zone difficulties that usually make it hard to televise the most popular Olympics events in prime time. The Tokyo location means morning events will be seen live at the most-watched moments of the day in the U.S., he said.