At a time when many in ad sales are singing the blues, the first U.S.-based Winter Olympics since 1980's Lake Placid, N.Y., Games appears to be generating green for CNBC and MSNBC affiliates.
NBC Cable Networks vice president of affiliate ad sales and promotion Brian Hunt said local Olympics avails for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City were about 75 percent sold through last Wednesday.
That was up from 70 percent the previous week andwell ahead of the 2000 Summer Olympics at a similar point in the sales process — though eleventh-hour carriage deals some MSOs struck with NBC hamstrung the 2000 efforts.
Hunt said he could not provide an estimate of local ad-sales figures for the Winter Olympics or of NBC Cable's Visa International-sponsored "Bring Home the Gold Sweepstakes" promotion. Affiliates are reluctant to divulge sales data to NBC Cable for fear that it could be used against them in future negotiations, he said.
CNBC and MSNBC affiliates are selling three minutes per hour in local Olympics avails — about 1,100 30-second spots in total.
NBC's self-proclaimed "Complete Olympics" will offer viewers 375.5 hours of coverage, more than double the 179 hours CBS and Turner Network Television devoted to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
NBC will broadcast 168.5 hours from Feb.8 through Feb. 24, while CNBC and MSNBC will offer 207 hours, including 131 hours of original coverage.
A SLATE, FINALLY
NBC finally specified its Olympic schedule last week.
CNBC's coverage will run 6 p.m. to midnight each day, with 76 hours of "live wall-to-wall hockey" across all 14 days. MSNBC will run 55 hours of the Games, from 1 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 to 11 a.m. weekends, focusing on cross-country, biathlon and curling, as well as some men's and women's hockey games.
Although he couldn't provide overall sales figures, Hunt did offer a spot check of how cable operators were faring in several markets with the Games barely two weeks away from their Feb. 8 start.
NBC Cable affiliates in such winter- or mountain-state markets as Salt Lake City, Denver and Minneapolis have been "pretty much sold out" for the past month or so, he said.
Elsewhere, Hunt said operators that are now sold out or close to being sold out include: Time Warner Cable in Kansas City; Cox Communications Inc. in Rhode Island; Comcast Cable Communications Inc. in Detroit and Little Rock, Ark.; AT&T Broadband in Dallas; and Adelphia Communications Corp. in Erie, Pa., and in Buffalo, N.Y.
Time Warner Kansas City general sales manager Mark St. Clair said his system had "basically sold out, 99 percent." The system pitched 25 prospects and sold 11 clients in October — about a month behind schedule, due to Sept. 11, he said.
The main categories were automotive, fast-food, jewelry stores, a grocery store and heavy construction equipment.
As for the top two DMAs, Hunt said Time Warner CityCable in New York has sold "five very large Olympics packages" so far, and Adlink, the Los Angeles interconnect, also "has done fairly well."
Client categories appeared to run the gamut locally, he said. For example, Cox's Rhode Island system sold ads for a lawyer, two furniture stores, a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, an auto dealership, a Catholic school and the state lottery.
Hunt credited the success to an upsurge in patriotism since Sept. 11.
On the network side, NBC had sold 97 percent of its inventory through last Tuesday, a commercial load that packaged spots on all three networks together.
Olympics sales have reportedly slowed sales for Fox's Feb. 3 broadcast of the Super Bowl, five days before the Salt Lake Olympics begin. The Super Bowl was pushed back a week because of Sept. 11.