| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES NBC Universal has sold more than
$900 million in advertising time for the upcoming Olympic Games
in Beijing, booking nearly 90 percent of its inventory three
weeks ahead of the opening ceremony, the company said on
Aiming to sell $1 billion in Olympic commercial time
overall, General Electric Co.-owned (GE.N) NBC Universal plans
to air a record 3,600 hours of coverage between August 8 and
August 24 across its broadcast, cable TV and online outlets.
In addition to prime-time broadcasts on the flagship NBC
network, coverage of the Games will air on Spanish-language
network Telemundo, cable channels USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Oxygen,
and various websites. Live audio-video streaming of the Games
over the Internet will account for about 2,200 hours of NBC
Universal's overall coverage.
"I think the country is really ready for this," NBC
Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol told a gathering of TV
writers, speaking via satellite from Beijing. "It isn't exactly
a joyful time; $4 gasoline, people who can't afford vacations;
wild prices on food. Audiences are really looking for something
Advertisers appear to be betting that viewers will flock to
the Beijing Games in large numbers, extending a marketing trend
that increasingly favors marquee events like the Olympics, the
Super Bowl and Wimbledon over regularly scheduled television.
Because audiences tend to tune in for big-event sports in
real time, rather than recording them to watch at their
leisure, such broadcasts have grown all the more valuable to
Despite forecasts that the U.S. economic slowdown could
pinch marketing budgets, advertisers in categories like
consumer electronics, movies and retail continue to show strong
demand for the Olympics, NBC said.
For NBC and its advertisers, the biggest change in this
year's coverage is a sharp increase in the number of events to
be carried live in the United States during prime time, with
fewer of the tape delays typically required in beaming distant
Olympic competition to U.S. viewers.
In order to show popular events like swimming and
gymnastics as they unfold live, NBC prevailed on the
International Olympic Committee to start competitions earlier
in the day in Beijing.
Previously, U.S. audiences complained that Olympic Games in
places like Sydney, Australia, lost much of their drama because
the outcome of competition became widely known before events
had a chance to air, via tape delay, in prime time.
"I told (the IOC) that it would be almost impossible for an
American network bidding on the Games in the future -- if they
were going to be in the Far East -- for it not to be able to
have it live," he said.
NBC, which paid $894 million for exclusive U.S. rights to
the Beijing Games, will broadcast live events for about half of
its prime-time coverage each evening on the U.S. East Coast.
Prime-time events will still run in tape delay for the West
Ebersol also addressed questions about NBC's plans should
sweeping protests or violence break out during the Games,
insisting that bona fide news developments would be covered as
"We're there with a great team to cover those events. But
we also have NBC News," he said. "If this becomes a news story
or series of news stories, other than sports, we are ready to
cover them. We are not going to cavalierly blow out sporting
events to show news. But if it's really news, we're going to
(Editing by Carol Bishopric)