By Barry Janoff
August 6, 2016: A showbiz adage says, "Give the people what they want and they'll come," which was repositioned for the movie Field of Dreams as, "If you build it, they will come."
NBCUniversal has taken that phrase to heart with its coverage of the 2016 Olympics. The broadcast company said it would air a record 6,755 hours of the 2016 Summer Games across its network, cable, mobile, Internet and other platforms, up from the previous high of 5,535 hours of coverage by NBC for the 2012 Summer Games in London.
That increase in coverage is, for NBC, what the people want. The London Games set a viewership record with 217 million, topping the previous mark of 215 million during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
"It's simply breathtaking to consider that a mere 20 years ago in Atlanta (1996) we telecast about 170 hours and now we're creeping up on 7,000," said Jeff Bell, NBC's executive producer for the Olympics.
The coverage allows NBCU to cater to specific audiences. In 1968, ABC devoted a total of 43.5 hours to covering the Summer Games in Mexico City. In 2016, NBCU-owned Golf Channel is devoting more than 50 hours to covering the sport in the Rio Olympics.
"And while of course we're very proud of our engineering capability, our production capability . . . it is still the overall quality that we have in television, especially in prime time, that we're looking forward to (in Rio)," said Bell.
It also comes with a rise in ad sales dollars: a record $1.1 billion in 2012, which has been broken in 2016, with NBCU at $1.2 billion and still counting. Digital ad sales also are up, by about 33%, per NBCU.
The continued updraft is needed to offset NBCU's rising fees paid to the International Olympic Committee to be the exclusive broadcast network in the U.S.
"We are exceptionally well sold," Seth Winter, Seth Winter, NBC Sports Group evp-advertising sales, said Thursday (Aug. 4) during a media conference call from Rio. "We are pretty much sold out of our premium inventory."
The minimal time difference — Rio is just one hour ahead of the U.S. Eastern Time Zone — means much more live programming of competition than in London and Beijing.
"That's very helpful," said Winter. "We feel more confident in committing to our ratings and the type of numbers we think it will reach. (And) advertisers feel more comfortable."
According to NBCU, it cost $894 million for the broadcast rights in 2008. They paid $1.18 billion for London four years later as part of a $4.38 billion contact signed with the IOC in 2011 that extended their alliance for four additional Games, through 2020.
In 2014, NBCU, owned by Comcast, paid the IOC $7.65 billion to extend their exclusive rights for six more Games, from 2022-2032.
For upcoming Games, NBCU said rights fees for 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea would be $963 million; and for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo $1.41 billion.
The 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are part of NBCS's most recent TV rights extension deal.
Based on NBC's numbers, the $1.2 billion spent for rights fees for Rio is just $400,000 than the total sum of the rights fees paid by NBC, CBS and ABC for the Summer and Winter Games (which then were held in the same year) for 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992 combined.
NBC has has exclusive U.S. coverage of every Summer Olympic Games since Seoul in 1988 and every Winter Olympics Games since Salt Lake CIty in 2002.
NBCU is getting significant dollars from official IOC partners, which include Atos, Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, Toyota and Visa.
Also adding to NBC's Olympic coffer are such U.S. Olympic Committee partners as 24 Hour Fitness, AT&T, BMW, BP, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Chobani, Citi, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hershey, Hilton, Kellogg's, Liberty Mutual, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's, Ameritrade and United Airline.
According to NBC, the "most active" categories are automobiles, alcoholic beverages (beer, wine), telecom, insurance, movies, CPG, QSR and retail.
Among the companies that broke spots during the Open Ceremony on Aug. 5 are Bridgestone ("Built To Perform" pictured), BMW ("Built For Gold"), Dick's ("Gold In Us"), Apple ("The Human Family"), Nationwide ("Songs For All Your Sides"), United ("One Journey. Two Teams"), P&G and Coca-Cola.
The Olympics represent the ten most-watched events in U.S. TV history, according to NBCU.
Following London and Beijing, the Top Ten also includes 1996 Atlanta (209 million, NBC), 1994 WInter Games Lillehammer (204 million, CBS), 2004 Athens (203 million, NBC), 1988 Seoul (194 million, NBC), 1992 Barcelona (192 million, NBC), 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (190 million , NBC), 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games (187 million, NBC) and 2000 Sydney (185 million, NBC).
The official dates of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are Aug. 5-21, plus an additional two days of soccer preliminaries prior to the Opening Ceremony.
Olympic Games Viewership, TV Coverage, TV Rights Fees
• Rio de Janiero 2016 Viewership TBD NBC 6,755 hrs. coverage $1.22B TV Fees
1. London 2012 217M NBC 5,535 hrs.$1.18B
2. Beijing 2008 215M NBC 3,600 hrs.$894M
3. Atlanta 1996 209M NBC 171 hrs. $465M
4. Lillehammer Winter 1994 204M CBS 119.5 hrs. $300M
5. Athens 2004 203M NBC 1,210 hrs. $793M
6. Seoul 1988 194M NBC 179.5 hrs. $300M
7. Barcelona 1992 192M NBC 161 hrs. $402M
8. Vancouver Winter 2010 190M NBC 835 hrs. $820M
9. Salt Lake City Winter 2002 187M NBC 375.5 hrs. $545M
10. Sydney 2000 185M NBC 442 hrs. $705M