US television network NBC is hoping for a billion-dollar ad windfall from this year's Summer Olympics in Athens.

The General Electric-owned broadcaster believes it will rake in $1 billion (€0.8bn; £0.5bn) in ad sales during its coverage of the event -- higher than the $900 million taken four years ago for the Sydney games and the $740m generated by the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. NBC paid $793m for media rights to this year's games.

Advertisers who have already bought airtime during the Olympics coverage include Coca-Cola, Visa International and Eastman Kodak. NBC says it has made 80% of its target, and is yet to begin selling individual 30-second spots.

The network has so far offered airtime packages across the NBC flagship network and its MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo siblings. These will carry at least 1,000 hours of Olympic broadcasts.

News that it is on course for billion-dollar takings is a boost for the ad market in general. Forecasts of a global ad resurgence in 2004 have been based on a strong Olympic showing, as well the European soccer championships and the US presidential elections.

The location of this year's games is said to have helped NBC's sales, as Athens poses fewer time problems for US broadcasters than Sydney. In addition, the event will be held in August, compared with September four years ago, meaning coverage will not be competing with other networks' new-season shows.

However, some media buyers fear the timing will be more of a problem in Europe, where August is the month many people go on holiday. This could have a negative effect on TV audiences for the Olympics.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff