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NBC Expects Another Billion-Dollar Olympics in Terms of Ad Sales

On pace ahead of London 7 months out from Rio

NBC expects to top the more than $1 billion in ad sales from London. Getty Images

It might not be the Powerball jackpot, but NBC has been raking in the money for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Seven months before the opening ceremony, NBC Sports' ad sales chief Seth Winter said the network is ahead of where it was at this time four years ago before the London games. But it wasn't always looking that way.

"A couple months ago, we were behind London," Winter told reporters today on a conference call. In the past few weeks, Winter said, they closed "a couple" of significant pieces of business in the $25 million to $50 million range, and now he expects to top the more than $1 billion in national ad sales for the London games. "We will break revenue records here, there's no doubt about that," Winter said.

Including local revenue from affiliates and owned-and-operated stations, NBC brought in $1.3 billion in ad revenue from the London games, a break-even number. (For comparison's sake, networks have brought in $2.38 billion in Super Bowl ad sales over the past 10 years.)

NBC is paying roughly $1.28 billion for the rights to air the Rio Olympics, a figure that doesn't include production costs.

Pointing to the proliferation of tablet and mobile usage over the past four years, Winter is predicting a 50 percent increase in digital ad sales over London. Though, in an effort to protect the TV broadcast, NBC is requiring a certain level of ad spend on linear for those that want to buy digital spots. "Your linear investment is best suited and plays out better if there is digital inventory to solidify the level of engagement, the level of brand recall," Winter said. "It's kind of an insurance policy against your linear investment resonating with the public."

NBC Olympics will again partner with social platforms and recently launched on Snapchat.

Highlighting the broad appeal of the Olympics, Winter said NBC has sold across a variety of categories including health, automotive, insurance, quick-serve restaurants, motion pictures, tech, financial, telecommunications and packaged goods.

Winter also hopes for some of the $8 billion in political ad spending projected for this election cycle. "We all know it's a very interesting political season. We do hope that we do have an opportunity to participate in their campaigns," Winter said.

Come summer, Rio will only be an hour ahead of the East Coast, ensuring that much of NBC's prime-time coverage will be live. For the London Games, which were six hours ahead, NBC nabbed an average of 31 million viewers a night. More live events should only inflate viewership.

"We have so many live hours," said Winter, "more so than any other games."

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