NBC Sports Surpasses $1B in Ad Sales for Tokyo Olympics

Summer Olympics Misty May-Treanor Kerri Walsh Vollyball Gold - H 2012
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Summer Olympics Misty May-Treanor Kerri Walsh Vollyball Gold - H 2012

Network executives expect Tokyo to generate more than the $1.2 billion in sales for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, the highest-grossing Olympics ever.

With just under eight months before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, NBC Sports has crossed the $1 billion mark in advertising sales. The network expects to book more than the $1.2 billion that it took in for the previous 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, which stands as NBC’s highest-grossing Olympics ever.

The Opening Ceremony is set for July 24, just after the Democratic nominating convention and before the Republican convention kicks off.

“We believe the Olympics will unify our country,” Dan Lovinger, executive vp ad sales, NBC Sports Group, told reporters Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

NBCUniversal is planning to carry more than 7,000 hours of coverage across broadcast, cable, digital and social. Some Olympic content is likely to appear on the streaming service Peacock, which is set to launch in April. Parent company Comcast is set to announce details of the service at a Jan. 16 investor event. 

The demand for live viewing in a streaming, on-demand content universe continues to drive interest from media buyers. Fox Sports last month sold all of its spots for the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at more than $5 million to as much as $5.6 million for a 30-second spot. By contrast, in many years previously, Super Bowl spots have still been selling up until just before the game. CBS Sports pulled in between $5.1 and $5.3 million for its coverage of the 2019 Super Bowl.

Lovinger expects the Tokyo Games to attract than 200 million viewers, making it the most watched event of the year by a wide margin. With an advantageous time difference — Tokyo will be 13 hours ahead of the East Coast time zone this summer — many events will air live in primetime and late night.

NBCUniversal paid $4.38 billion in 2011 for the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2020. And in 2014 it extended its grip on the largest global sporting event, shelling out $7.7 billion for the Games through 2032. But viewership for all content, even live sports, is experiencing declines in a rapidly splintering media environment. Tune-in for Rio and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, while still dominant, experienced erosion. NBC’s coverage of the Pyeongchang Games averaged 19.8 million viewers a night across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports streaming platforms. (The overwhelming majority of viewers — 17.8 million — watched on NBC.) That was down 7 percent compared to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which did not air on NBCSN, nor was it streamed. But even with some erosion, the Games will still obliterate the competition. NBC’s primetime coverage from Pyeongchang outdelivered its broadcast competitors by 82 percent every night.