NBC affiliates hit the streets offering a variety of creative sponsorship options for potential advertisers ranging from spots in the games to adjacent related programming to local newscasts. It’s paying off with reports of sales pacing well ahead of four years ago.
At WXIA Atlanta, the elevator has been made to look like one of those quintessential red London phone booths and the conference room has been dressed up like an English pub replete with photographs, a mural and TV screens highlighting past Olympics glory.
It’s all meant to put visiting advertisers in the proper mood for the pitch to come.
WXIA is one of 12 Gannett-owned NBC affiliates that have been selling time in the London Olympics “in earnest” since the start of the year, says Gannett Broadcasting President Dave Lougee.
“We might have been guilty of taking [Olympics sales] for granted a little bit and not doing as good a job as might have in the past,” Lougee says, but “this year we got in front of our best and most important clients early.”
The strategy is working, he says. With more than five weeks to go before the games get underway on July 27, Gannett’s Olympics sales are “significantly ahead” of where they were this time four years ago when the Beijing games were approaching, Lougee says.
National sales are up, but it is the growth in local sales that is really driving this year’s rise in revenue, he adds.
Other NBC affiliates and their national reps say sales are surpassing those of the 2008 games, which generated a healthy 16.1 rating/28 share during primetime, and a 7.7/21 overall, according to Nielsen. (The 2004 Athens games rated 15.0/26 in primetime and 7.0/20 overall.)
“We are projecting that our Katz stations will have one of their best Olympics ever,” says Leo MacCourtney, co-president of Katz Television.
With the higher-than-normal ratings in primetime and Olympics-rated programming in other dayparts, stations are billing 60%-65% more than they otherwise would this year, he says. That’s up 10%-15% from past Olympics, he says.
The affiliates’ take from the Olympics is on top of what NBC will bring in on its own. Brian Wieser, a securities analyst at Pivotal Research Group, estimates that the network will garner $625 million more than it would from airing its regular summer schedule.
At Petry, Olympics sales are already at 90% of total sales four years ago, says President Val Napolitano. “The Olympics is still one of the most valuable advertising vehicles to reach a broad audience as well as an upscale audience,” Napolitano says. Olympics revenue will likely account for a percentage “in excess of small double digits” of Petry’s total billing this year, he notes.
“There are so many ancillary programs that either the stations do or provide us to sell, and those are great areas to include in a regular Olympic package,” he says.
Hearst Television’s Olympics sales are 50% ahead of where they were at this time in 2008, according to VP of Sales Kathleen Keefe. The group already has reached 82% of its Olympics season goal, she says. “I expect to go past it.”
The story is the same at the local level.
Belo’s KING Seattle also is ahead of the game, with Olympics sales figures already surpassing already its 2004 take, says GM Ray Heacox. “Most of our large accounts were in 15 months ago.”
Media General’s WVTM Birmingham, Ala., is also up with more than $1 million worth of advertising during the actual Olympics coverage, says General Sales Manager Ronda Garvin. That doesn’t include revenue from other Olympics-related programming, such as Olympic Zone, the nightly NBC network-produced show that lets affiliates mix in local content.
MacCourtney cites NBC’s effective promotion as one factor in the robust sales. “There is going to be a three-week period of time when it’s going to be all Olympics, all the time and the whole world is going to stop and watch,” he says.
Another factor is strong demand. A wide range of advertisers from car manufacturers and telecommunications companies to insurance and financial services providers are buying into the games. And political advertisers may yet hop on board, he adds.
The affiliates also have more to sell. The network will broadcast 272.5 hours of Olympics coverage over 17 days, the most ever and nearly 50 hours more than it did from Beijing four years ago. Bob Costas will host the primetime telecasts.
Coverage will begin on most weekdays at 10 a.m. ET, immediately following NBC News’ Today, which will originate from London. On weekends, NBC’s daytime coverage will begin as early as 5 a.m.
A one-hour latenight show will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the primetime program. Primetime coverage will be replayed following the wrap-up show.
But the broadcasts on NBC are just a small piece of the 5,535 hours of coverage NBCUniversal has planned. NBCOlympics.com accounts for more than 3,500 of those hours. It will live stream every event and sport, including the awarding of all 302 medals.
Other outlets include NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo and three ad hoc networks for basketball and soccer and 3D. The 3D channel is a partnership with Panasonic.
Affiliates are trying the make the most of the opportunity with special programming and sales promotions.
Media General’s WFLA Tampa, Fla., for instance, is partnering with car dealers and restaurants to host live broadcasts during Olympic Zone and be a drop-off point for a station-driven food drive, says VP-GM Brad Moses.
Gannett-owned affiliates will be running daily Olympics medal counts, which advertisers can sponsor.
My Carolina, a lifestyle show produced at WNCN Raleigh-Durham N.C., will replace regular segments with Olympics-related content that features advertisers, says General Sales Manager Steve Blanchard.
A hospital, for example, may use the time to discuss sports injuries. A bicycle shop could use the time around Olympics races to promote the sport, he says.
That Olympics sales are where they are is no surprise, MacCourtney says. “We knew the Olympics was going to be strong when we started getting orders a year ago.”