Cable Looks To Mine LAS Green From Vancouver

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The athletes' preferred colors are gold, silver and bronze, but local ad sales executives have their sights set on Olympic green.

Armed with units inside CNBC, MSNBC and USA Network's combined 240-plus hours of coverage from Feb. 12-28, cable LAS officials have significant inventory to sell, including taggable athlete spots and the opportunity to pitch clients on this association: "[Advertiser] is a proud local advertiser in NBC Universal's coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Winter Games."
"NBC has done a number of Olympics now and we have a good track record on being able to deliver with the Games. Clients know there is equity in sponsoring the Olympics on cable," said Brian Hunt, senior vice president, marketing and sales strategy, TV Networks Distribution, NBCU
"Some clients see [LAS packages] as an opportunity to tap into this huge international event," said Marc Stein, area sales manager west, Comcast Spotlight New England. "They view their association with the [local Olympic advertiser] message as being very valuable."
Hunt noted that some 400 systems have signed up to NBCU's Olympic affiliate site, albeit some only for marketing purposes. "There is a lot of interest in the Olympics. We're trending ahead of Torino [Italy, site of the 2006 Winter Games]."
Mike D'Ambra, national sales manager and director of sports sales for Bresnan Communications, concurs, noting the MSO is "double where we were with the Beijing Games in 2008, and ahead of Torino. There's been a big run-up," he said. "We put [the local ad sales package] out in November and there was a strong response. Our account execs pushed very hard last month. In some areas, we are sold out."
Stein is also pleased with Comcast Spotlight New England's progress with the Games thus far.
"We've been doing very well -- better than expected and ahead of where we were two years ago," he said. "There is a lot of interest in the Winter Games, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Stein said the Vancouver Olympics have proven to be "a good seasonable business," with sporting goods and ski manufacturers in tow, as well as ski resorts in the aforementioned states.
"Some skating centers also have taken advantage of this," he said, noting that the Games have drawn some new advertisers. "We'll see if they become long-term clients."
While Bresnan has written Olympic orders from a ski resort and Vann's, an electronics retailer serving Montana, much of the action has come from a category, where people are either trying to live vicariously through the rings being the thing, or just making nice with their loved one on Valentine's Day.
"I just did an audit, and 32% of sales have been with jewelry store clients," said D'Ambra. "After that banks and credit unions have also been a big part."
Both executives pointed toward Vancouver's favorable time zone with the U.S. as being a major boost to their LAS efforts, compared with the multiple hour-differential they encountered in touting the Olympics from Beijing and Torino.
"With the Games in Vancouver, that certainly alleviates any objection to that part of the sales process," said Stein.
Added D'Ambra: "The perception is that NBCU will put all the good sports on the broadcast network in primetime. But clients and viewers realize that we're going to have excellent live sports this time around."
For its part, USA Network will televise 41 hours with an emphasis on U.S. teams, especially hockey. Universal HD, currently available in 17 million homes, will encore USA Network's coverage. CNBC will carry 101.5 hours, with an emphasis on live long-form curling, hockey and biathlon. MSNBC has 100 hours, highlighted by the live quarterfinal, semifinal and medal-round hockey competition, as well as the U.S.-Canada men's game, plus extensive live curling, speed and figure skating.
Overall, NBCU, including advanced media offering, plans a record 835 hours of Winter Olympics coverage, all in high-definition for the first time. NBC sets the pace from a linear perspective, with 193.5 hours of coverage topped by such marquee events as figure skating, speed skating and alpine skiing.
Overall, NBCU president of research Alan Wurtzel recently predicted that some 200 million viewers will watch at least a portion of the 17-day Olympics.
Cable figures to contribute significantly to NBCU's audience from Vancouver. With its coverage from Torino, which has a 6-hour difference from the East Coast, NBCU counted a total of 62.3 million unduplicated viewers, 31% more than cable's reach from Salt Lake City. Cable coverage from Torino averaged a 0.51 household rating and 704,000 viewers.

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