NBC Olympics Coverage Web Ad Inventory Almost Sold Out

On Friday we wrote about how NBC were partnering with Microsoft and others to use the Olympics coverage as a test-bed for researching new user habits in viewing content between online, television and mobile. The web experience at NBC is powered by Silverlight, also giving Microsoft its first large-scale opportunity to gain distribution for the new web platform. It seems that there are very high expectations from not only NBC and Microsoft, but also advertisers, as Mediaweek today report that the online ad inventory for the NBC Olympics coverage is almost sold out. NBC says that 85% of all available inventory has already been sold, an extraordinarily high amount.

NBC did not disclose exact details or numbers, but did say that they have signed corporations such as Mcdonalds, Coca Cola, Johnson and Johnson, Hilton and Anheuser-Busch as video advertisers for the web broadcasts. Since the International Olympics Commitee sets strict standards on advertising during the games, overlays are not allowed so video ads will take the form of short and 30-second spots both before and after clips and shows.

NBC paid $4.2 Billion for the exclusive rights (both television and web) to broadcast both the four summer and winter games between 2006 and 2012. NBC experienced disappointing ratings with both the Sydney and Athens Olympic games, and suffered losses due to unhappy advertisers. The issue with the games at the time was the time zone difference causing a huge drop in audience – as events were shown in early morning hours or in the middle of the night (in the case of Sydney). With the NBC and Microsoft web strategy, the audience can now be expanded to those watching at work, on the road or those who watch clips delayed – which will in theory result in an audience much larger than television-only (and in-turn more revenue).

For NBC, web video and technologies like Silverlight are playing a big part in expanding their audiences and increasing revenue. Who would have though that the whole online video thing would ever be responsible for actually saving and helping a company like NBC?