NBC Sports Expects More Than $1.2 Billion in Ad Revenue From the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics

Spots for the Big Game are going for 'north of $5 million'

Super Bowl LII and the Pyeongchang Olympics will air just four days apart.
NBCUniversal

With a little more than three months to go before NBCUniversal airs two of 2018’s biggest events—Super Bowl LII and the Winter Olympics—just four days apart, the company said it expects to rake in more than $1.2 billion in ad revenue from both programs and is well on its way to achieving that goal.

“All but a handful of units” have been sold for the Super Bowl, with some 30-second spots going for “north of $5 million” Dan Lovinger, evp ad sales, NBC Sports Group, told reporters. Meanwhile, Lovinger expects that the Olympics revenue will surpass the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Winter Olympics revenue could be goosed by the company’s first six-second ads, which it will likely roll out during the games.

The Super Bowl will air on Feb. 4, with prime-time coverage of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, kicking off on Feb. 8. Sales “are brisk” for both, Lovinger said. “We expect to reach our revenue targets for both of these events.”

Lovinger said he and his team have either sold or are in negotiations for “all but a handful of units” for the Super Bowl and is “confident” they will sell out prior to the game. “We are asking for and getting north of $5 million” for some spots, Lovinger said. Already, “most of the first half priority positions are gone,” he added.

He anticipates that the Super Bowl will bring in $350 million from in-game advertising, in addition to pregame and postgame ad revenue. All of the linear in-game Super Bowl advertisers will also be running digitally, so no matter whether audiences watch the game on TV or stream it, they will see the same national ads.

Lovinger said Super Bowl inventory is selling more quickly than in recent years because his team has taken Super-Sized Ad Model research into the marketplace over the past five weeks. The research helps advertisers understand the components of a spot—how it drives search and YouTube video usage— and gives them more confidence in their ability to achieve goals.

Additionally, as Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, told Adweek in August, “When we went into the market this year, we approached it quite a bit more aggressively than maybe others have brought it in the past, just because of our relationship with football itself—we have the biggest footprint because we have Sunday and Thursday nights—how much inventory you have, and what purpose that serves a marketer.”

Meanwhile, Lovinger expects ad revenue for the Pyeongchang Olympics to surpass the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which ended up in the mid-$800 million range across all platforms, “by double digits.”

In 2016, NBCUniversal raked in more than $1.2 billion in broadcast, cable and digital advertising for Rio Olympics. The Winter Olympics traditionally have lower ratings and therefore less revenue than the Summer games.

Olympics guarantees will be “somewhere in the neighborhood of where we finished our Sochi Games, perhaps a tad lower,” said Lovinger, noting that the ratings guarantee metric has changed this time around. In March, NBCUniversal announced it would be switching its guarantee for Winter Olympics advertisers from households—which it has used for all of the recent Olympics—to what it calls Total Audience Deliver numbers, a total viewer guarantee of viewership across broadcast, cable and digital.

With the switch to total viewers, Lovinger said at the time, “we’re better to able better pivot from linear to digital and back again, depending on where we see the viewership spikes coming from on a day-to-day or event-to-event basis.”

In 2016, the Rio Olympics averaged a 14.5 household rating, a 17 percent decline from 2012 and far below the “high teens” household rating then NBC Sports ad sales chief Seth Winter guaranteed advertisers.

While NBCUniversal hasn’t aired any six-second ads yet, Lovinger said he plans on running some during the Olympics. “There are some natural transition points,” he said, such as between events or when the anchor desk hands off to a venue, where they could be deployed.

At this point, six-second ads aren’t being discussed for the Super Bowl.

“Not to say we won’t, but the economics have to make sense before we move something forward with something like that,” Lovinger said. “First and foremost, we want it to be impactful and useful for an advertiser.”

Fox Sports has been airing six-second ads during telecasts this fall, including NFL and Major League Baseball games on Fox, and FS1 telecasts of college football and Major League Soccer games.

Lovinger estimated that a quarter of the advertisers overall will be participating in both events. Because less than half of all viewers for the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics will watch both events, advertisers can grow their reach by buying inventory across both events.

“If you’re an advertiser where you need to be on air any time in the first quarter, you have to be in the Super Bowl and you have to be in the Olympics because it’s going to be so dominant,” Yaccarino said in August.

The strongest advertising categories for both events have been technology, automotive and retail, Lovinger said. Movie studios have a strong Super Bowl presence, and he expects that to spill over to the Olympics as well.

These are the first Olympic Games and Super Bowl ad sales Lovinger has overseen after taking over NBC Sports ad sales a year ago.

“We really couldn’t be happier with where things stand right now,” he said.

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