A NBCU graphic showing their Olympic networks.

The Olympics are a huge deal for NBC, which is expecting to make a record profit from this year’s delayed Summer Games in Tokyo (which are still on for the moment, although cancellation amidst COVID-19 pandemic issues hasn’t yet been ruled out). As part of that, as anyone who’s been watching various NBCUniversal channels (from broadcast NBC to NBCSN, USA, and Golf Channel) knows, they’ve been running a ton of in-house ads for much of the last year promoting their Olympic coverage. MediaPost’s Wayne Friedman has an interesting breakdown of just how much value in ad spots has been used on these various promos:

TV promos on NBCU networks had a total media value of $49.9 million — mostly on its sports-related TV channels and programming, according to iSpot.tv.

NBC also bought national advertising time for the Olympics totaling $1.2 million.

The bulk of the airings for its Tokyo Summer Olympics promo spot were on the Olympic Channel, at which NBC is a minority partner: 18,396; NBCSN, 5,834; The Golf Channel, 1,832; USA Network, 1,336; and NBC Television Network, 1,208.

Over the last month, NBC placed 427 TV promos for its Tokyo Summer Olympics promo spot; and another 140 airings for “Olympic Dreams.” Media value from those promos totaled $8.7 million. It has amassed 740 million impressions.

As discussed there, given that these spots mostly ran on NBCU networks, this isn’t actually NBCU spending $51 million. At most, $49.9 million there is just being transferred from one NBCU balance sheet to another. But those in-house ad runs are still significant; they take away spots that NBCU might otherwise sell. There wouldn’t necessarily be exactly $49. 9 million in revenue if NBCU ran zero promos here and sold those spots instead (for one thing, putting that much extra ad inventory onto the market might have lowered the rates NBC could charge), but they definitely did use some significant slots for this, especially with those 1,208 on broadcast NBC.

And Friedman adds that some of the top impressions for these ads came from their airing during big NBC sports events, including NFL football (490 million impressions since November), PGA Tour golf, and NHL hockey. They also did well on top scripted NBC shows like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Chicago P.D. It’s not surprising that ads in those spots did well, as those are many of NBC’s top-drawing properties, but that does indicate that a lot of these ad placements were in spots that would have been otherwise desirable ones for other companies to buy.

It’s also notable that NBC did spend $1.2 million on advertising the Olympics elsewhere on TV. And this is focused on TV ads, so it doesn’t count the in-house promos NBC has placed all over the ad-supported version of streaming service Peacock. It also doesn’t count the digital ads they’ve placed on their own digital properties, or the digital ads they’ve bought elsewhere. And this appears to be focused on NBC promos, so it doesn’t appear to be counting the Olympic ads (TV and digital) from parent corporation Comcast, and it also doesn’t appear to count Spanish-language Olympics promos for Telemundo. So the actual total of advertising NBCU has done here is likely larger.

Of course, this is all small compared to what NBC’s expecting to make on the Olympics. They haven’t released specific numbers there, but they’re expecting a Games that “could be our most profitable Olympics.”  They previously made $250 million in profit off the Rio Games in 2016, and they sold $1.25 billion in ads for the Tokyo Olympics before the pandemic postponement last year. It’s unclear how that ad sales number has changed since then, but yes, if these Games go as planned, NBC will make lots of money. And there’s certainly an argument that promos have at least some value towards that; yes, many people would be aware of the Olympics even if NBC didn’t run a single promo, and there’s a discussion that can be had about how many promos are the right amount, but running some amount of promos certainly does play a role in getting more people to tune in.

All in all, it goes to show just how important these Olympics are for NBC, and how much they’re investing in promoting them. And while it’s not really surprising or unusual for NBC to spend a lot on promoting its Olympics coverage (they’ve always done that), it is interesting to see the figures of how much they’ve “spent” (both in actual spend and in in-house ad slots that might have otherwise been sold). It’s also notable to see the breakdown of where those ads have run and how many impressions they’ve pulled in.

[MediaPost; photo from NBC Sports Group Pressbox]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.