NBC Cracks Window For Olympic Ad Sales

New York— The 2002 Winter Olympics are still more than eight months away, but NBC and NBC Cable Networks began beating the drums last week to tout extensive local ad-sales plans.

At a press briefing here last Wednesday (May 23), Peacock network officials outlined their local ad-sales programs for the games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ad-sales kits were shipped to cable affiliates earlier this month.

Those kits were disseminated on May 9, the day when operators could officially begin selling the Olympic coverage, which will run from Feb. 8 through Feb. 24, 2002.

The Utah games will be the first held in the U.S. since the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., which were covered by ABC Sports, said NBC Cable Distribution president David Zaslav. That "ratchets up the excitement" among viewers and sponsors, he said.

NBC Cable also carried coverage of last year's Summer Olympics from Sydney, Australia, but some MSOs were late to ink contracts for the event — and to agree to distribute the rest of NBC's Olympic coverage through 2008. That hurt local sales efforts, according to Zaslav.

But many operators "did very well" in generating local ad-sales revenue from the Sydney Olympics, he said.

Among the materials available in the affiliate kits are CD-ROMs that contain customizable PowerPoint presentations and taggable promotion spots, a training film on DVD and print sales guides, said NBC Cable vice president of local ad sales Brian Hunt.

The kits were shipped to 750 affiliate ad-sales offices nationwide, Hunt said.

In a video clip, returning MSNBC Olympics host Jim Lampley reported that the NBC cable networks will carry more than 200 hours of Salt Lake coverage and that "a little more than 80 percent" of that programming will be live.

But NBC executives declined to specify how much of its broadcast and cable coverage would air in primetime, indicating that the lineup will differ from what was announced at a December press conference.

CNBC will cover the Olympic hockey tournament after the close of the financial markets each weekday, said Hunt. The business-news channel gave last year's Olympic boxing events similar play.