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NBCU Says Rio Olympic Sales Top $1 Billion

Even an outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil can’t keep Madison Avenue from spending big on the 2016 Olympics slated to take place in Rio de Janeiro. NBCUniversal said it had sold more than $1 billion in digital and TV advertising for its coming marathon broadcast of the contests, and expects it to capture a record amount of national advertising for a televised media event.

The Comcast unit’s announcement comes about four months earlier than when it was achieved for the company’s telecast of the 2012 Summer Olympics from London in July of 2012. The brisk pace suggests NBCU’s ability to televise the event in nearly the same time zone as U.S. viewers – there is a one-hour time difference — will allow the company to place more emphasis on primetime scheduling, when it charges the most money for commercials. In past broadcasts from places like Beijing, NBC has been forced to telecast important events at odd hours, and then repackage those moments for primetime.

“Advertisers know that integrating their brands in front of Olympic viewers is good for their businesses,” said Seth Winter, executive vice president of advertising sales for NBC Sports Group, in a prepared statement. “We continue to expect to set the Olympic record for national ad sales.”

NBCU’s Olympics broadcast, which typically preempts programming across its broadcast and cable networks, is slated to begin August 5.

Madison Avenue appears to be betting that another live sports event will capture the fancy of the American viewing public in ways that normal prime-time fare will not. In previous interviews, Winter cited robust demand from automotive marketers, movie studios, fast-food outlets and consumer-technology makers, and suggested sponsors were attracted by the fact that the coming Olympics would have more “live” hours of events than previous telecasts. The speedier-than-usual sales process would also indicate that advertisers are not alarmed by the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil. The malady appears to be spread in party by mosquitoes and has been linked to severe birth defects.

NBCUniversal secured about $1.3 billion for the London Olympics, according to data from Kantar Media – a new record compared with the $850 million NBCU captured for its 2008 coverage from Beijing.

The pace of ad sales will likely prove welcome to senior executives at NBCU and its parent, which will want to offset the massive cost of securing Olympics broadcast rights.  In 2014, the International Olympic Committee unveiled a $7.65 billion pact with NBCU that gives the company all U.S. media rights to Olympic games through 2032. Previously, NBCU struck an agreement in 2011 to pay $4.38 billion for games from 2014 through 2020. NBCUniversal has with each new Olympics telecast made more of the content available via digital means.


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