NBCUniversal Expects to Exceed $1.2 Billion in Ad Sales During 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Nearly one year out, broadcaster is ‘pacing significantly ahead’ compared to 2016 Summer Games

NBCUniversal logo for 2020 Summer Olympic Games
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NBCUniversal

We’re still a year away from the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, but NBCUniversal is already anticipating that the games will deliver at least one advertising record.

The broadcaster is expecting to bring in more than the record $1.2 billion in national ad sales that it raked in during the 2016 Summer Games hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dan Lovinger, evp, advertising sales of NBC Sports Group, said Tuesday.

On a call with reporters, Lovinger said NBCUniversal is already “pacing significantly ahead” of where the company was at the same point prior to the 2016 games, and was well ahead of the broadcaster’s sales goals. Lovinger declined to share what those are, other than to say it was higher than that of the Rio games.

“We feel strongly we’re going to surpass that $1.2 billion high-water mark,” Lovinger said.

The advertising goals and growth mark are just another way NBCUniversal has looked to cash in on the sports bonanza while adjusting its approach to account for changing viewing habits. The Summer Games mark the first time NBCUniversal will sell the games as a unified offering that brings together broadcast, cable, digital and social reach for advertisers, Lovinger said.

“In our opinion, a viewer is a viewer, regardless of how, when and where they’re watching,” Lovinger said.

The 2020 Summer Olympics will be the second Olympics overall and the first Summer Games in which NBCUniversal is guaranteeing audiences to advertisers using its Total Audience Delivery metric, or TAD, which measures audiences across linear, out-of-home, digital and streaming. The broadcaster switched to TAD during the 2018 Winter Olympics after its record Rio year. Nonetheless, this caused some headaches for the company after ratings fell to a 14.5 linear household rating, below the “high-teens” household ratings that former NBC Sports ad sales chief Seth Winter guaranteed advertisers. (Winter announced his exit from the company later that year and now heads up ad sales for Fox Sports; Lovinger stepped into Winter’s former NBC Sports role.)

Next year’s games also mark the first time advertisers will be able to buy against key audience demos, said Lovinger. He called this a move that’s intended to help “democratize access to the games” for brands that might require demo guarantees.

Total ad load for the games—which has previously attracted some criticism—would be about the same as years past, Lovinger said.

While NBCUniversal is continuing to tweak and expand opportunities for advertisers across platforms, it’s unclear what opportunities there might be for brands or viewers looking to advertise or watch Olympics-related content on NBCUniversal’s upcoming ad-supported streaming service, which is slated to launch sometime in the first half of 2020.

“We haven’t actually made any decisions yet on the new OTT platform as to what will be and what won’t be [on the platform], from an Olympics perspective,” Lovinger said.

The 2020 Summer Olympics have attracted early interest from those in categories like auto, travel, beverage, tech and financial services, who have long been reliable early advertisers for Olympic programming. Those deals have had stronger volume on a per-deal basis than in prior years, Lovinger said.

In the next several weeks, NBC Sports’ advertising team hopes to make an appeal to several Japanese brands to advertise in the U.S. market and capitalize on the focus on Tokyo, Lovinger said.

Although the Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Summer Olympics won’t take place until July 24, 2020, advertising for the 2020 games kicked off almost exactly a year ago. The company isn’t wasting time on upcoming games, either: Earlier this year, NBCUniversal gave brands the opportunity to advertise across four sets of Olympic and Paralympic Games from 2022 through 2028.

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