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NBCU nearing Super Bowl sell-out with ad spots fetching $6.5M each

Six months before the marquee events, NBCUniversal Media LLC is nearing advertising sell-out levels for Super Bowl LVI and the 2022 Winter Olympics.

NBC Sports Group Executive Vice President of Advertising Sales and Sponsorships Dan Lovinger told reporters on a Sept. 8 conference call that less than five 30-second commercial units remain in the NFL championship game, scheduled for Feb. 13, 2022. The executive also said inventory in the upcoming Winter Games, slated from Feb.4-20, 2022, is virtually sold out.

Lovinger confirmed that the most recent 30-second units in Super Bowl LVI have sold for $6.5 million, which stands as a record rate, and that inventory in the pre-game show and other content that day are extremely well sold.

Per usual, the NFL title tilt, the most-watched program of the year, has drawn strong interest among automakers and beverage marketers, according to Lovinger.

He also pointed to the hybrid entertainment category as the third biggest segment. In light of the social constraints posed by the pandemic and curtailed movie-house audiences, this group now encompasses messages from both studios for their theatrical releases, as well as content being trumpeted by the streaming services.

Lovinger said interest in the remaining Super Bowl ad units is strong and he expects deals to be closed in the upcoming weeks, rather than keeping them in reserve until closer to kickoff.

The company has held back a couple of adjacent units, so if "an advertiser comes to us with a 60-second creative, we can accommodate it. But other than that, we really are out of A positions," the executive said.

NBC (US)'s Super Bowl LVI ad load will be north of 70 units, lower than the 80-plus units CBS (US) and FOX (US) have sold during their respective coverage of Super Bowls LV and LIV, he said.

Lovinger said NBCU has been able to leverage the appeal of the Super Bowl, requiring buyers who have recently purchased a spot to make a "matching investment" across other high-profile, NBCU properties, including the Winter Games.

Relative to the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, Lovinger said NBCU is essentially sold-out, but, as always, is holding back some inventory, with the company assessing demand for the remaining units "on a case by case basis."

Although the Summer Games typically feature more advertisers — due to the higher number of competitions and hours of coverage — there is usually "a fairly significant" amount of repeat business between Summer and Winter Games supporters, Lovinger said.

NBCU's prime-time total audience delivery, or TAD — across linear, digital and streaming coverage — for this year's Tokyo Olympics, averaged 15.5 million watchers, down almost 42% from a 26.7 million TAD average for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in 2016. Despite this, Lovinger said, "No advertiser has come to us from the Summer Games and said, 'We were disappointed and therefore won't join you in the Winter Games.'"

Even with the lower viewership for the Tokyo Games, NBC's coverage ranks as prime-time's second-most-watched show, behind the 17.4 million TAD average for NBC's "Sunday Night Football." Moreover, NBC's 15.1 million-viewer daypart average during the recently completed games, regularly doubled and tripled the combined audiences on ABC (US), CBS and FOX.