NBC Says Olympic Ad Sales Top $1.2B

Related: Local TV Covering Home Town Heroes From Rio

NBC says its national ad sales for the Olympic Games from Rio have topped $1.2 billion.

The number beats the total from London by 20% and makes the Rio Games the biggest TV event ever, said Seth Winter, executive VP of ad sales for the NBC Sports Group.

He added that NBC continues to book business as the opening ceremonies approach.

Winter said that news reports of troubles in Rio, ranging from outbreaks of the Zika virus and raw sewage in the swimming venues to unfinished facilities, was actually boosting awareness of the games. "All those stories about the different issues have helped us, if you ask me," Winter said.

Related: TCA: NBC's Bell Says Brazil Headwinds Only Enhance Games' Appeal

He added that advertisers have been exceptionally bullish about these games and have started to arrive in Rio and have begun activating digital and social media campaigns around the games.

Media buyers say they expect the games draw big audiences and that Olympic advertisers haven’t expressed concern about negative stories about conditions in Brazil. Buyers also don’t expect NBC to focus coverage on Zica and floating sewage.

NBC is projecting high ratings and buyers are optimistic viewers will tune in, especially because so many events will be live with the games taking place in a nearby time zone.

“There are often on-site logistical issues with Olympics and generally speaking, they don’t negatively impact viewership,” says Neil Vendetti, president, investment at Zenith, pointing to recent games in Sochi, Russia and Beijing.

Vendetti says American viewers tune in when team USA is successful and the U.S. is expected to win medals in basketball, women’s gymnastics and swimming with Michael Phelps.

NBC has been selling packages that include broadcast, cable and digital. Winter said that NBC primetime usually accounts for about 75% of its sales.

Winter said that there will be election campaign ads during the Olympics. He said that two candidates ran ads in the London games and one ran an ad four years ago in Beijing. This year, "it's consistent with what we've seen in the past," he said.

On Comcast's earnings call last week, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said he expected the Rio Games to generate  "a lot more" profit than the $120 million profit it registered from the London games in 2012.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.