NBC Expects More Than $1 Billion in Ad Sales from Super Bowl, Winter Olympics

Super Bowl LI Tom Brady
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NBCUniversal projected it would take in more than $1 billion in ad revenue from its broadcasts of Super Bowl LII and the Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, South Korea, both of which are set to be telecast next February, a remarkable sign of confidence in advertiser interest in both sports events.

The Comcast-owned company currently expects to snare around $350 million in ad revenue from the Super Bowl, said Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of ad sales for NBC Sports Group, and anticipates getting a revenue increase in the “low double digits” percentage range above the approximately $800 million it secured from its coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

“Our marketplace is healthy,” said Lovinger, speaking with reporters Monday. He characterized sales for both events as “brisk,” and suggested NBC had only a “handful” of 30-second spots left in its Super Bowl inventory. “If an advertiser is interested in a premium position within the game, they really need to be in discussions with us,” he said. He said executives “are asking and getting north of $5 million dollars” for 30-second spots in the game, and declined to discuss whether some individual sponsors may be paying less.

NBC’s description of ad sales activity would suggest a change in the recent dynamics of selling the Super Bowl. For the past several years NBC, CBS and Fox have run into headwinds selling Super Bowl inventory. Fox did not announce this year whether it had actually sold out its broadcast of Super Bowl LI.  The cost of an average 30-second spot has rocketed more than 100% between 2007 and 2016  – rising to $4.8 million from $2.39 million – according to data from Kantar Media. With that price hike has come new skepticism about the game from Madison Avenue.

Lovinger credited the company’s ability to start talks with potential advertisers earlier than usual, owing to NBCUniversal’s broad portfolio of ad inventory across broadcast, cable and digital properties. The company has been passing along research about the ability of a Super Bowl ad to generate social-media chatter and YouTube views, among other consumer reaction, he said. Lovinger said NBCU is seeing interest in both events from marketers of technology and automobiles, as well as retailers. Movie studios, he said, are particularly interested in the Super Bowl.

The company has seen no diminishing of advertiser interest in the PyeongChang event despite recent unrest in that part of the world, said Lovinger. But he did suggest NBCU would likely lower its ratings guarantees that it makes to advertisers, a sign that other forms of media are luring consumers away from a linear TV broadcast. “We are probably guaranteeing somewhere in the neighborhood of where we finished our Sochi games, perhaps a tad lower,” he said.

The company may consider selling so-called “six second ads” in its Winter Olympics broadcasts, he said. More commonly known in the industry as “billboards,” the short on-screen shout-outs are typically given to advertisers spending a higher amount of money with a network. “There are some natural transition points from a programming perspective,” he said, like when a broadcast switches from one event to the next, or when a show shifts from an anchor to a venue where a sport is being played.