The Olympic ratings debate has been well-chronicled, including on this very site. Today, NBC Sports Group Chairman spoke to reporters on a conference call, and essentially confirmed the line of thinking we took: the numbers may be down from 2012, but they’re still better than just about anything else.
“This will be our most economically successful Games,” Lazarus confirmed to reporters on a conference call.
The media company had sold $1.2 billion worth of ad time on its TV networks and digital outlets before the Games in Rio opened last Friday. It has added $30 million more since then. “Our advertisers are happy,” Lazarus said.
If NBC does not meet the ratings guarantees it provided to advertisers, the network will offer them free commercial time later during the Games, Lazarus said, and it has enough inventory to do so.
Even though audiences are smaller than four years ago, the Olympics still draws one of the largest TV audiences that advertisers can find, said Barry Lowenthal, president of media buying firm The Media Kitchen. On the NBC broadcast network alone – which does not include cable or online viewing – NBC has recorded between 20.6 million and 33.4 million viewers.
“Those are really big numbers by today’s standards,” Lowenthal said.
Though the idea that ratings could hit lows while profits could hit highs seems contradictory, it actually makes a lot of sense. NBC is essentially getting a bigger piece of a smaller pie, but the value of said pie is about the same regardless of overall size. Whether it’s a sustainable model going forward remains to be seen, and considering NBC/Comcast is committed through the 2032 Olympics, they might still have to adjust their plans going forward.
Streaming seems likely to be a centerpiece of any strategy going forward, as NBC’s numbers in that arena have boomed. If those viewers can be effectively monetized, via targeted ads, a subscription model, or some other method, it seems reasonable to expect that NBC and Comcast’s investment will remain a good one.