It's never a good sign when a major sponsor like General Motors decides to skip a major TV-sports-marketing event like the Summer Olympics.
NBC has enough problems. In the past few years, with a poor prime-time performance, the network could always count on the hopeful sign every two years (winter and summer games) of those 16 days of Olympic coverage.
Last time around, the Winter Games in Turin, Italy, NBC seemed massively behind in its Olympics advertising sales efforts, only to make a quick and monumental dash to the line, coming up with a profitable sales event.
Now business journalists will start watching the NBC Olympics advertising clock again. GM is still in for the Beijing Olympics next summer. But the automaker has said it'll stop right after that, which has got to give NBC some jitters.
In NBC's favor -- right now, anyway -- is a rip-roaring TV scatter market. But will that continue through next summer? Probably not.
Most mainstream U.S. scatter advertisers -- and, for that matter, U.S. upfront advertisers -- don't make big-time Olympic deals right before the games. Those decisions are made a long time before that -- especially by those who also spend $50 million every two years on those massive overall IOC Olympic sponsor deals.
Still, NBC will take heart in the fact that advertising markets are seemingly solid for those still-high-rated TV events. Advertisers always seem to come around for the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the Olympics.
The concern is in future years. Will GM's abandonment -- the fact that one of the biggest TV advertisers in the land is leaving one of the biggest and most prestigious of all TV events -- create a spillover effect with other marketers?
NBC says it'll air more hours - 3,600 - of the Beijing Olympics, more than any summer Olympics telecast combined. That could mean more opportunity for advertisers, as well as more commercial overload.
One thing NBC won't have to worry about is time-shifted viewing. With 3,600 hours of live and taped events, any time-shifting will mean the hard drives in every single DVR across the country will blow up.
The good news, then, is that people will be watching those high-priced Olympic commercials.