NEW YORK (AP) — Pre-Olympics media reports about the Zika virus, polluted water and political unrest in Brazil raised awareness about the Rio de Janeiro Games and thus helped NBC's advertising sales, network executives said Thursday.
"The numbers reflect that," NBC Sports advertising head Seth Winters said. "Advertisers are exceptionally bullish on these games."
He said NBC had already sold $1.2 billion in national advertising time, at a pace about 20 percent above the 2012 London Games, and is holding back inventory for additional sales. The network hit its internal target weeks in advance, and often that doesn't happen until after the games start, if the target is reached, he said.
NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Stephen Burke has already predicted that he expects Rio to be the most profitable Olympics in history. NBC, which paid $1.2 billion for the broadcasting rights to Rio, made money from London, too.
The London Games were a huge success for NBC, which averaged 31.1 million viewers across two weeks of prime-time coverage. In today's fragmented television world, nothing can come close to gathering such a large, diverse audience for that length of time.
NBC Universal spreads its Olympic coverage across 11 television networks and is streaming all of the competition online. But roughly three-quarters of its ad sales come for the prime-time telecast on the broadcast network.
"We are hitting on all cylinders," Winter said.
NBC will begin its prime-time coverage with an hour-long preview Thursday night, and will televise the opening ceremony on Friday.
Winter said viewers will see some political advertising during the Olympics, but he wouldn't specify which campaigns have bought time.