Olympic sales soft for Hearst-Argyle stations


With the Summer Olympics in Beijing set to begin airing this Friday on NBC, Hearst-Argyle Television CEO David Barrett told investors and analysts on his quarterly conference call that his company’s 10 NBC affiliates still have inventory available. At this point, he’s expecting revenues to be in line with the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, but marginally below the previous Summer Games in Athens in 2004.

Hearst-Argyle owns the second-largest group of NBC affiliates. Those stations accounted for approximately 40% of Hearst-Argyle’s revenues thus far this year, second only to 48% from its even larger group of 13 ABC stations – the largest affiliate group for that network.

Barrett said his projection now is that ad revenues from the Olympics this year will be in a range of $16-17 million. “Torino just touched $17 million ’06. We have more inventory to sell at the moment, as I believe the network does, and we’ll be selling Olympics as we run through the next 28+ days,” he said.

“I think some advertisers are on the fence and reluctant to write a check on this. But I think if the Olympics open big and there are initial strong ratings for the Olympic broadcasts, I’d suspect we’d write a bit of business during the ensuing 18+ days of the Olympics,” Barrett said.

RBR/TVBR observation: The Olympics had everything going for them this year. The Summer Games are generally a bigger draw than Winter. The time zone of the location, China, meant lots of live events in US television primetime. What NBC couldn’t anticipate, or do anything about, was a downturn in the US economy resulting in an advertising recession at the same time it and it affiliates had such a primo event to sell. The network has claimed, though, to have sold out 96% of its Olympics inventory (as of last Wednesday) and is on track to set a record with more than $1 billion in ad sales.