Fast-Forwarding Through Olympic Commercials? Not So Fast

Too many TV commercials during the Olympics? It only matters if you think there are too many.

Despite a plethora of social media complaints about too many Olympic TV commercials on NBC, the big data says otherwise: Kantar Media says, so far, there have been fewer commercials versus the number during the last summer Olympics four years ago.

But here comes the bigger advertising data: NBC Sports says it will amass more total advertising dollars  -- $1.2 billion -- with the event looking to be “most profitable” than any other Olympics, according to Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBCUniversal.

What’s going on? Well for one, premium TV content like the Olympics doesn’t come cheap for marketers -- especially in prime time, where 75% of that $1.2 billion comes into play. Commercial unit pricing is up versus the London 2012 games.

But when it comes to the perception that there’s more ads during these games, here’s the rub: TV viewers are now sophisticated media users, perhaps with less tolerance for any advertising on any platform -- TV, online or otherwise.



We live in an age of growing digital ad-blocking, DVR fast-forwarding, and more premium TV and movie content on advertising-free services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

So advertising pisses us off — and on the Olympics in particular. Why? Versus other TV content, it’s sports and live (in theory). You can’t really fast-forward through supposed “live” sporting events.

Many recent Olympics on TV always seem to be time-delayed, with fewer events “live.” This now includes a location like Rio, whose time is only one hour ahead of the East Coast time zone. NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said the opening ceremony was one-hour time delayed so NBC could “curate” the content. You know, better context and -- in theory -- analysis.

Perhaps adding to the perception:  So many athletes are now allowed to sponsor products during the games themselves. Previous Olympics didn’t allow this.

No matter. All this marketing jumbles in our head. If it feels like there are too many commercials, viewers can be turned off --- and then literally turn off their TV sets. Bottom line: Ratings for the opening ceremony were down massively, with about a third fewer viewers than for London 2012.

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