NBC Is Switching From Households to Total Audience Guarantees for the Winter Olympics

Company is expanding its Snapchat partnership for the games

NBCUniversal's 2018 Winter Olympics coverage will begin on Feb. 8, just four days after the Super Bowl airs on NBC. NBCUniversal
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The 2018 Winter Olympics are 10 months away, but NBCUniversal is already making deals and firming up its ad sales strategy for the games, which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

For these Olympics, NBCU is switching its guarantee for advertisers from the households demo, which it has used for all of the recent Olympics, a total viewer guarantee of viewership across broadcast, cable and digital (what it calls Total Audience Delivery numbers). The company made the announcement to buyers and advertisers during an Olympics upfront presentation in NBC’s Studio 8H, where Saturday Night Live is filmed.

With the switch to total viewers, said Dan Lovinger, evp ad sales, NBC Sports Group, “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.”

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

While NBC’s prime-time Olympics rating will continue to be essential, “the days of it being the sole metric are absolutely over,” said Lovinger.

The ad sales chief will have his hands full next year. NBC will be airing not only the Winter Olympics but the Super Bowl, while Telemundo will have the World Cup. The last time the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics were on the same network was in 1992.

NBC’s Pyeongchang prime-time coverage begins four days after the Super Bowl, on Thursday, Feb. 8, with the opening ceremony taking place a day later.

“[The games] will receive significant exposure during our Super Bowl coverage,” Lovinger said, adding that NBC is “exploring” airing live reports from Pyeongchang during the games.

Lovinger is selling inventory “together and separately” across 2018’s three big sporting events. “If they can afford it, the one-two combination of the Super Bowl and four days later the Olympics is pretty unbeatable,” he said.

NBC Olympics is also shoring up its social ad sales strategy, announcing today that it will again partner with Snap Inc. to provide Olympics coverage on the platform via Our Stories and Publisher Stories each day on Snapchat Discover. NBC and BuzzFeed, which co-produced the Snapchat content during the Rio Olympics, will collaborate again on the Publisher Stories. A dedicated BuzzFeed team on location in Pyeongchang will co-produce that content.

The Olympics sales packages will include Snap Ad slots alongside user stories (snaps from platform users who identify themselves as Olympic fans, of which there were 34 million during the Rio Games), and NBC will be Snapchat’s first partner ever to sell the platform’s national lenses and geofilters. Lovinger’s team will exclusively sell all of their Snapchat inventory.

For Rio, NBC closed most of its social deals right before the games, which didn’t give them enough time to work with advertisers to maximize those partnerships. The early announcement of the Snapchat deal should help NBC get “close to eight figures, if not eight figures” in social ad revenue, said Lovinger. That would exceed the social ad revenue from the Rio Olympics.

Lovinger said he is “confident” the company will surpass its ad revenue from the 2012 Sochi Winter Olympics revenue. While he’s not releasing figures yet, he said sales are ahead of where they were at this time four years ago.

On Tuesday, NBC announced it will broadcast all of its Olympic programming live across all time zones. On most nights, the prime-time broadcast will begin at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. MT and 5 p.m. PT. “Our television, digital and social presentations will be in sync,” said Lovinger.

The Pyeongchang Games will be the first Olympics ad sales Lovinger has overseen. He took over NBC Sports ad sales in October, a month after Winter, who had spent a decade in the position, announced he was stepping down.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.