NBC sales may be Olympics record

Company likely to rake in more than $1 bil in ad revenue

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NEW YORK -- With the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics less than a month away, NBC Universal is close to earning a gold medal of its own.

It's likely that NBC Uni will rake in north of $1 billion in ad revenue -- taking into account not only NBC and its cable siblings but also the online ad inventory that the company is aggressively selling. That would be a record; anything more than$1 billion is higher than what NBC Uni took in in ad revenue for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

About 85% of the TV inventory has been sold. NBC is garnering an average of $750,000 per 30-second spot for its coverage, which will include not only primetime from Aug. 8-24 but also midday and late-night. At the same time, other NBC Uni networks including Telemundo, USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC and Oxygen also will be carrying Olympic sports. About $850 million will go to NBC Uni and $150 million to local NBC affiliates.

The CPMs are about 10% higher than those for the 2004 Olympics. Strong categories include auto, telecom, soft drinks and movies, as well as retail advertisers wanting to tell of back-to-school sales.

Hot dayparts include swimming and gymnastics on NBC, particularly with the anticipation that Michael Phelps might break the record for most gold medals in a single Olympics. Oxygen's gymnastics coverage is gaining interest from advertisers looking for female demos, and CNBC's coverage of boxing is getting dollars from advertisers looking for heavily male-skewing demos.

NBC's business picked up in recent weeks after the network aired the Olympics trials, with some coverage in primetime.

"Sports, particularly a powerful brand such as the Olympics, continues to buck the trend," Seth Winter, senior vp ad sales at NBC Sports & Olympics, said Monday. "Clients and buyers recognize that big sporting events generate numbers you just don't see anyplace else, especially in the increasingly fragmented media world we live in today."

That's all good news for NBC Uni and its parent company, General Electric. GE said in its quarterly earnings call Friday that it sold $700 million in products because of the Olympics. A GE exec told Wall Street on Friday that the company feels good about the Olympics performance.