Blame it on Rio: Some U.S. companies see sales hit from Olympics

Fri Aug 5, 2016 4:29pm EDT
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By Anna Driver and Malathi Nayak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Olympics are already proving to be a boon for Comcast Corp’s (CMCSA.O: Quote) NBC and a drag for its U.S. media competitors, as well as for restaurants that rely on customers venturing out in the evening for a bite to eat.

Viacom Inc (VIAB.O: Quote), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O: Quote) and Discovery Channel all say they are bracing for a hit to ad sales or subscriptions during the Games, while Cheesecake Factory Inc CAKE.O and others cautioned the event could keep people out of restaurants.

While previous Olympics produced winners and losers among U.S. businesses and industries, the effect could be more pronounced this year. That is because many high-profile competitions will be airing in primetime, in about half of the United States, and because NBC will air an unprecedented 6,755 hours of Olympic programing that can be viewed on broadcast television, online and on mobile devices.

The last time the Games coincided with primetime was 1996, when they were held in Atlanta. That was before streaming, apps and a host of other technologies.

NBC said on Thursday it had already sold more than $1.2 billion in advertising, including most of its premium ad space for the Rio Games, hitting an all-time record. About $1 billion was sold during the London Games four years ago.

"If I'm in a business in this month that is relying on foot traffic or eyeballs and I don't have Olympic programing, it's going to be a bad month," said Bernard Gershon, president of media and technology consulting firm Gershon Media.

For the Games, Comcast has enhanced its X1 video technology, a set-top box with a voice-controlled remote, and included new features such as the ability to search events by country or athlete and bookmark content.

"They really have stepped up the way you can consume the content and see it on multiple screens," said Gershon.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Opening Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Maracana stadium.                REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis