NBC's Olympic-sized Advertising Hurdle

NBC might be "on track" with its Beijing Olympics TV advertising sales -- but the train is sure to come in late to the station.

NBC claims it is 80% finished with its goal of selling TV advertising time in the Olympics -- its goal being some $1.2 billion in advertising revenue.

Historically, that means they are well behind where they should be, according to media industry executives. (NBC disagrees). Typically going into the summer, most analysts say any Olympic TV sales should be about 85% to 90% completed.

That may seem a small difference, but as media executives will tell you, selling the last 10% or 15% is the hardest. In the closing weeks before a sporting event is to take place, TV sales executives press hard in signing up smaller TV advertisers, or convincing other resistant TV marketers to possibly revisit a media buy. (This typically goes for other big sports events, such as the Super Bowl.)

Political concerns? No doubt the controversial political environment surrounding China and Tibet can be a deterrent to some marketers. But political situations always loom around the time of any Olympics, as many parties view it as a worldwide media platform to get out all kinds of messages.

A slower-moving Olympics ad sales effort would have more to do with the unsteady economy. As evidence of this, TV's strong scatter market of the last several quarters has cooled down somewhat.

Still, the network knew what it was getting into -- especially in dramatically increasing the number of televised hours for the event. NBC must have realized it needed to lay the groundwork for a broader base on Olympic advertisers a long time ago.

If NBC doesn't get to where it needs to, it could do what it has done in the past -- cut back on its prime-time advertising time. In some past Summer Olympics games, one media analyst says, NBC ran just nine minutes of national advertising time per hour.

All that would make for a better product onscreen -- as well as curry favor towards those advertisers who already made the expensive decision to buy the Beijing Olympics some time ago.

And, like an Olympic athletic ideal, it would show good sportsmanship in a tough TV business world



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