With one-third of the event under their belts, NBC Sports executives said the audience for the overall event had surpassed the guarantees made to advertisers, giving the company some confidence that attention to the Games would continue to increase. “What we have seen here is people are coming for the Olympics and they are staying at relatively even levels throughout the evening,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports, speaking to reporters Tuesday. Executives believe additional viewers will tune in as more prominent American athletes begin to compete more noticeably in primetime.
Primetime broadcasts are luring an average of 24 million people, executives said, with 22 million watching on NBC and two million looking at NBCSN and digital.
Even so, executives acknowledged that viewership in primetime across all platforms had fallen about 6% compared tothat for NBCU’s telecast from Sochi in 2014, although viewership in other dayparts is up. They took erosion into account when devising advertiser guarantees, and established benchmarks accordingly, said Lazarus. “If you look at the total media landscape, if you are down roughly 5% over a four-year period – no one is doing as well as that in television,” said Lazarus. “We are doing very well.”
Recent performance has allowed NBCUniversal to go back to advertisers and try to sell ad inventory previously reserved in case the company missed audience guarantees, Lazarus said. “We are on a pace right now where the inventory we held aside for potential underdelivery of our estimates is not going to be needed,” he added. He estimated the value of the remaining ad time to be at several million dollars. NBCU has said it has sold more than $900 million in ad time related to the event, with 90% of sponsors purchasing packages across broadcast, cable and digital.
Executives said they believed they had put behind them a bizarre incident in which an NBC Sports analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo said during a taped broadcast of the opening ceremonies that Japan served as a “key” example in South Korea’s transformation. While NBCU believes “there was some degree of misinterpretation of what was said, it’s not our job to equivocate or justify or try to explain” to people who were offended by the remarks, said Lazarus, “We simply apologized and moved on.”
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some longstanding Olympics sponsors had trimmed the amount they spent on these Games, but Lazarus said that had not hurt NBCU’s sales process. “That’s unfortunate for them,” he said of sponsors who may have cut back. “Sixty percent of our advertisers are new.”
Executives say they anticipate more advertiser interest in days ahead, noting that the number of people watching the Olympics in primetime on NBC and NBCSN ” is routinely doubling and tripling the audience of the other three networks combined,” according to Lazarus, who added: “If you want to sell your product in the next two weeks, we are the window to the consumer.”