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Olympics are strong sell for local cable

Jan 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Ad sales are hot for winter sports, particularly for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
The Olympics, which will be shared among NBC and its cable networks MSNBC and CNBC, are essentially sold out on the national level and are at approximately the 70 percent-plus mark when it comes to local cable advertising sales overall, said Brian Hunt, VP of affiliate advertising sales and promotion for NBC Cable.
Local cable ad sales for the Winter Olympics are “far ahead” of the Sydney Summer Games in 2000, which were about 50 percent sold at this point, Mr. Hunt said. At the national level, the Winter Olympics are 95 percent to 100 percent sold and are “basically done,” he said.
One factor that accounts for the performance of Olympic ad sales is that, unlike with Sydney, there is no time-delay issue with this Olympics; another is “post-9/11 patriotism,” which makes the Olympics an “easier product to sell,” Mr. Hunt said.
There is a big Olympics promotional push aimed at NBC’s cable affiliates. In late December, NBC sent out 11 cross-channel 30-second “taggable” spots, Mr. Hunt said. Five of those spots are for the exclusive use of cable affiliates.
In addition, cable affiliates are being encouraged to participate in the “Bring Home the Gold” promotion from VISA, which entices viewers to use their VISA cards during the run of the Games by promising to award one user $10,000 each time an American wins a gold medal at the Olympics. Cable systems representing 15 million homes have signed up for the promotion, Mr. Hunt said. He expects that total to rise to 25 million by the start of the Games on Feb. 8.
On the local-cable-ad-sales front, Mr. Hunt said, markets that are essentially sold out now include the winter-sports-loving markets of Denver, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. Charter Communications in Wisconsin, Cox Communications in Rhode Island, Time Warner in Kansas City, Mo., and Adelphia Communications in Erie, Pa., have also sold out.
Other markets nearing the sellout level for the Olympics are Comcast in Detroit, Adelphia in Buffalo and AT&T in Dallas, Mr. Hunt said. Local cable sales in the mega-markets of New York and Los Angeles are “doing quite well,” said Mr. Hunt, who was not able to specify percentages or other figures, with both the Adlink interconnect in Los Angeles and the New York Interconnect having sold several “big regional auto-dealer groups.”
Gold and associate sponsorships for the Winter X Games VI, which get under way this week and will be telecast by ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, also are sold out nationally. ESPN owns the X Games franchise, which targets the young male demographic.
The six gold sponsors include three returning from Winter X Games V-1-800 CALL ATT for Collect Calls, Motorola and Mountain Dew-plus Right Guard Xtreme Sport, Taco Bell and Jeep. The gold and associate sponsorships of the X Games go for $2 million and $1 million, respectively, according to an official familiar with the deals.
The X Games will be telecast for a total of 15 hours by the three Disney networks. By contrast, the Peacock networks will air 3751/2 hours of Winter Olympics programming. MSNBC and CNBC together will telecast 207 hours.