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NBC Seeks More Ad Sales With Strong Olympic Ratings

With Olympic viewing down only slightly from four years ago from Sochi and meeting advertiser goals, NBC is back in the market selling additional spots in the Winter Games.

NBC is measuring the Olympics by a Total Audience Delivery metric that includes broadcast, cable and online streaming viewing. By that metric, Olympic viewing is down just 6%, averaging about 24 million viewers in primetime.

Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports, speaking from PyeongChang, South Korea, where the olympics are being held, Wednesday morning, called that a “a ratings success,” adding that the company has increased its advertising capacity because it no longer has to hold onto some of its commercial inventory to “make good” for audience under-delivery to advertisers.

Related: The Winter Olympics Are Snagging Viewer Emotion Gold

“We still have the ability to go back into the market and sell more,” he said, noting that NBC was in talks with current advertisers who might want to heavy up their schedule and with new advertisers.

“If you want to sell your product in the next two weeks, we’re the window to consumers,” Lazarus said.

Though NBC has already sold more than $900 million in advertising, Lazarus conceded that some sponsors decided not to spend as much on this year’s Olympics as they have in the past. “That’s unfortunate for them,” he said.

About 60% of the advertisers in this year’s games are new. Lazarus said he’s heard from some of them and “they’re reaping great benefits. . . They’re feeling very positive about their investment in the Olympics.”

Compared to the single digit decline in the Olympics, the top two entertainment programs four years ago are down 32% and 19%, showing how well the Olympics have been able to hold their power and their ratings.

“Every couple of years we’re reminded just how powerful the Olympics are,” he said. The blend of athletics, pageantry and politics is “unmatched in the media landscape.”

Olympic viewing is dominating all TV programming, making NBC America’s most watched network for the first time since 2002.

He said that the 2,000 NBC Sports staffers in Korea and another 1,100 in the U.S. are bringing pictures and stories to audiences across all platforms with the “incredible production NBC is known for.”

“We believe it is really shining through the first few nights of the Games,” he said, adding that Mike Tirico has done a “fantastic” job as the new host of the Olympics, replacing Bob Costas.

Lazarus noted that NBC’s decision to air its primetime broadcast programing live in all markets has defied the previous conventional wisdom by not losing viewers. 

NBC Sports research chief Joe Brown said the bulk of Olympic viewing on the West Coast was coming during the primetime show, which airs at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Lazarus also noted that viewing of the Olympics so far hasn’t been spiking with the appearance of particular sports or athletes. “This year they’re coming for the Olympics,” he said, adding that the biggest U.S. stars have barely started to perform.