WASHINGTON NBC Universal has sold 75 percent of
the commercial inventory for its upcoming Olympics broadcast
and has seen no discomfort from advertisers over pro-Tibet
protests against China, Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said on
Zucker told Reuters in an interview that Olympic
advertising prices have been "incredibly strong" despite
political tensions and anti-China protests ahead of the August
games in Beijing.
"The fact is the Olympics are a sporting event on the world
stage," he said. "It's not surprising that some would try to
use that stage to further their own causes, and we understand
that, but at the end of the day this is about the event and
both the advertisers and our viewers understand that."
Zucker was speaking after a relay of the Olympic torch
through Paris was canceled on Monday after thousands of
pro-Tibet protesters repeatedly snarled its progress.
NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric and Vivendi, has
the exclusive U.S. television broadcast rights for the
Olympics. Asked if the tensions have caused any pullback by
advertisers, Zucker said, "We've seen no evidence of any
discomfort with anything regarding the Olympics."
He also said NBC has received "very positive feedback" from
advertisers on its 2008/09 prime television schedule, which was
unveiled last week. While it was too early to predict pricing
for commercial time, he said he was "optimistic" heading into
the upfront period, when the majority of prime-time ads are
"The best barometer of upfront pricing historically is
second-quarter scatter pricing," Zucker said, referring to the
spot market where near-term advertising is sold to marketers.
"That has been incredibly strong, so we're optimistic," he
added in an interview ahead of a presentation to an advertising
industry conference in Washington D.C., sponsored by the IAA.
NBC revealed its upcoming programming lineup earlier this
month, six weeks ahead of other major TV networks, saying it
wanted to give advertisers time to plan long-term campaigns.
The network has been under pressure to boost viewership
after it has been lagging behind News Corp's Fox, Walt Disney
Co's ABC and CBS Corp's CBS.
NBC is also thought to be interested in bidding for the
Weather Channel, whose time-sensitive broadcasts and
programming about environment issues have attracted audiences
and advertisers and would fit well with NBC's cable news
channels like CNBC and MSNBC.
Zucker declined to comment on whether NBC had placed a bid,
but said: "The Weather Channel is a very good opportunity and
certainly something we would take a look at. News and
information is a hallmark of NBC Universal."