NBC continues Olympic ad sales roll

Michael Phelps helps boost growing interest

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NEW YORK -- Things just keep getting better for NBC Olympics.

The network has sold $10 million more in advertising since the beginning of the Beijing Games on Friday, thanks to NBC's strong ratings and high buzz surrounding gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps and other athletes. That's atop an already record-breaking $1 billion in revenue that NBC Universal secured before the games began.

"The Olympics have completely captivated the American public and further ignited our sales efforts," said Seth Winter, senior vp sales/marketing at NBC Sports & Olympics. "Americans are consuming our Olympic coverage in record numbers and in every way."

NBC had inventory to sell because networks traditionally keep some commercial time in case the ratings disappoint and makegoods are required. Or, in the case of NBC, some of that inventory is now being sold, although it wasn't clear what dayparts or the price.

The top rate so far had been $750,000 per 30-second spot in primetime, although the average commercial -- either on NBC, one of its cable networks or online -- is less than that. NBC told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday that the new ad spending came from movie companies, packaged goods and retail. There was a mix of new and old advertisers, adding up to more than 100 separate advertisers. The overall list also includes both presidential candidates, who within the last week spent more than $10 million together on Olympic ads.

By any measure, NBC's Olympics coverage has been a success. The network has managed to buck a downward trend in broadcast TV ratings, with an average primetime audience of 31.3 million through Tuesday, Nielsen Media Research said. The 17.8/31 primetime rating is the best since 1992's summer games in Barcelona.

The ratings jumps are also strong in demos, like men 18-34, that are traditionally difficult for broadcast TV to snag. Men 18-34 ratings are up 28% while men 18-49 ratings are up 22%, all compared to the 2004 Games in Athens.