NBC has designated Feb. 13 as “Super Gold Sunday,” and with less than a month to go before the NFL title tilt and the Winter Olympics align for the very first time, the ad dollars are piling up like so much alpine powder.
According to Dan Lovinger, president of NBCUniversal ad sales and partnerships, there are a few remaining units up for grabs in the Super Bowl LVI broadcast, while the amount of Winter Olympics inventory on hand is on par with where things stood four years ago.
Speaking to NBC Sports’ Maria Taylor in a segment recorded for a soup-to-nuts update on the network’s big February doings, Lovinger said Beijing sales are “exactly at the same spot we were heading into the Pyeongchang Games.” The ad sales chief went on to say that there is “still some work to be done between now and the end of the Games,” before adding that his team “feels really confident that we’re going to achieve all of our goals.”
In 2018, NBC had salted away a few million dollars in ad time to use in the event it found itself unable to meet the ratings guarantees made to advertisers in advance of Pyeongchang. As it happens, the network out-performed its advance estimates, which enabled it to free up the reserve units to sell in scatter.
NBC’s coverage of the 18-night event averaged 19.8 million viewers and an 11.3 household rating, and while Pyeongchang now stands as the least-watched Olympics in the modern Nielsen era, the sales guarantees were sufficiently pitched to avoid a morass of revenue-eroding make-goods. According to contemporary SQAD MediaCosts estimates, NBC’s South Korea adventure generated $903 million in linear TV and digital ad sales revenue, which marked a 10% increase versus the 2014 Sochi Games.
Pricing for the Beijing Winter Olympics isn’t fixed, and advertisers with more comprehensive commitments pay fewer dollars per unit than marketers that have been making lighter buys. That said, media buyers estimate the average cost of a 30-second primetime spot in this year’s event is somewhere between $635,000 and $670,000.
Thus far, about 100 advertisers have bought time in the Winter Games, a tally that includes 40 newcomers.
Lovinger also provided counsel on the state of the Super Bowl, telling Taylor that NBC is “virtually sold out, as we have been for quite some time.” This marked NBC’s first public announcement regarding the Big Game since September, when Lovinger said the network had only a few in-game units left.
“We tend to hold a few units in our back pocket until the final game matchup is announced,” Lovinger said, adding that scatter spots in Super Bowl LVI have sold for as much as $6.5 million a pop. By Lovinger’s reckoning, the in-game units on average are selling at a 20% premium compared to the $5.2 million NBC fetched for its spots in Super Bowl LII, which translates to around $6.2 million for each 30-second increment.
Some categories that sat out last year’s Super Bowl or which otherwise slashed their usual spend have returned to the game, while a healthy infusion of new blood has flooded other areas of NBC’s sales field. Movie studios are back in fighting shape, while legal sports-betting players and cryptocurrencies will make their Super Bowl debuts next month. Perennials such as auto, beverage and fast-food restaurants will also be hard to miss.
As part of its Super Gold Sunday scheme, NBC on Feb. 13 will air live Olympics coverage until noon ET, before cutting to its standard pregame programming block. After the victor is crowned in Los Angeles and the Lombardi Trophy is held aloft, the network will return to Beijing for a 75-minute Olympics look-in featuring ice dancing and monobob, a new wrinkle on bobsledding. The one-woman sleds can reach speeds approaching 80 miles per hour; as Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production says, the new sport is basically “NASCAR on ice.”
When taken together, the in-game Super Bowl units and the Sunday night Olympics spots are expected to scare up some $500 million in revenue.
In a chat with NBC Sports anchor Mike Tirico, Solomon said that while the network wouldn’t overlook the geopolitical intrigue swirling around the host country, the primary focus of NBC’s Olympics coverage will be “on Team USA and the athletic competition.”