Comcast’s NBC is airing both the Super Bowl and the Olympics in February, a double-whammy sports extravaganza that the company expects to yield $1.4 billion in ad sales, helping it justify the hefty price it’s paying for both events. NBC is banking heavily on these sports events since traditional TV ratings have slumped in recent years. Live sports are marquee TV events that draw most of the largest TV audiences, but even those ratings have declined. More Americans are dumping their cable packages — Comcast lost 33,000 video customers in the fourth quarter and 151,000 for all of 2017 — and advertisers are following consumers to their phones. Spending on U.S. TV ads is expected to grow an anemic 0.4 percent this year, according to eMarketer. In the October-December quarter, NBCUniversal’s broadcast TV ad revenue fell 6.5 percent, after a boost in 2016 from election ads. As it adapts to a slowing TV market, NBC is continuing some digital efforts from Rio and expanding others to meet viewers wherever they are — whether in front of a TV or not. The Super Bowl reaches more than 100 million people in the U.S., outstripping every other TV event. It’s the most expensive ad time on TV. This year’s Super Bowl is Feb. 4 and follows a two-year slump in regular-season NFL ratings, according to ESPN . But NBC has said it is not worried about a lack of interest. The game is an event that “transcends sport and even the game itself,” Dan Lovinger, an NBC Sports ad-sales executive, said in January, about three weeks before the game. NBC said then that it had nearly sold out Super Bowl ad spots and that on average, companies are paying more than $5 million for 30-second ads during the game. Kantar Media expects rates slightly higher than last year’s $5.05 million. Fox aired the Super Bowl in 2017, and said it had $500 million in ad revenues for the day. NBC has predicted about $500 million for the game and associated events this year. NBC also makes money from ads during events before and after the game and a special episode that day of its hit drama, “This is Us.” For the first time, it’s selling ads for the game that will only appear on its app or website. NBC is paying $963 million for the broadcast rights to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which follow a Summer Olympics in Rio two years ago that disappointed in some ways. NBC ruled the airwaves during the Rio Games, besting other networks, and raked in $250 million in profit. But ratings for the prime-time broadcast declined compared to the London Olympics in 2012, so NBC had to give advertisers some extra ad slots to make up for it. This time around, NBC will sell ads for this Olympics based on total viewership, counting cable and digital viewers as well as those who tune into NBC proper. That gives them more leverage with advertisers, said Brian Wieser, an ad analyst for Pivotal Research Group. NBC expects to sell more than $900 million worth of ads for the Olympics, which it says would be the highest ever for a Winter Games. (Summer Games are more popular.) The company is offering more hours of programming this year, both on TV and online, than it did for the Sochi Games in 2014. Past Olympics have been criticized by fans for tape-delayed events. This year, NBC will air its nightly prime-time broadcast simultaneously across the country. That means the West Coast evening broadcast will start early, at 5 p.m.
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