In spite of the anaemic ad market, General Electric-owned TV network NBC says it has sold almost 90% of its ad time for next year’s Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The network announced last week it had sold 87% of its time. Since then, said one executive, Sony Pictures and auto firm Hyundai have bought slots. The same informant added that the network’s target of $790 million was unrealistic, with $700m a more likely figure.

“Against the most difficult marketplace in anybody’s memory, the Olympics are nearly 90% sold out,” said NBC spokesman Kevin Sullivan, “which is a strong indicator of how strong the Olympics are as a property.”

NBC is promoting its slots to advertisers by arguing that the post-September 11 patriotism gripping the US could increase interest in the games. It is broadcasting events live from Salt Lake City in prime time.

However, one anonymous media buyer who has bought slots on the network cast doubt on the 90% claim, telling sales were still slow, with around 60%–70% of time sold. The figure is important, as most blue-chip advertisers have already signed on, and NBC could have difficulty making up a large amount of unsold time with smaller advertisers.

News source: