The troubles facing the NFL over the past season — such as national anthem protests, injuries and declining TV ratings — have not deterred advertising demand for NBC's Feb. 4 telecast of Super Bowl LII.
Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of advertising sales for NBC Sports, said on a conference call Thursday that the network expects to take in $500 million in ad revenue on Super Bowl Sunday, about the same as last year's event.
The figure, which includes pregame festivities, the contest itself, postgame, and a special airing of the hit NBC drama series "This Is Us," is roughly equivalent to what the network takes in from its daily morning program "Today" over an entire year.
Lovinger said there were fewer than 10 spots available in the Super Bowl LII. He said the average price was "north of $5 million" for a 30-second ad, in line with pricing in recent years. The last time NBC had the game, in 2015, advertisers paid an average of $4.5 million per spot.
"All we've seen is enthusiasm for the Super Bowl," Lovinger said. "The game itself almost transcends the season."
The audience level for the Super Bowl has always towered over the rest of television, delivering 106 million viewers or more since 2010. Last year, the New England Patriots' stunning comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons had an average audience of 111.3 million viewers on Fox, making the game the fifth-most watched TV event of all time, according to Nielsen.
The game's massive audience number stands out even more in contrast to overall ratings for live TV viewing, which have steadily declined as more people watch scripted shows through online and on-demand platforms.
Live events that draw big numbers have become more valuable for advertisers who want their commercials to be seen on the day they air.
"There just aren't a lot of places you can find big ratings in a live environment, so advertisers do clamor to those types of opportunities," Lovinger said.
The Super Bowl includes the added attraction of big-budget and often star-studded commercials that people tune in to watch. The running commentary and sharing of spots on social media have expanded the reach of the high-priced commercials beyond the telecast.
Lovinger said that advertiser demand has also been strong for NBC's telecasts of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea from Feb. 9-25. He projected a $900-million take in ad revenue, which he said would be a record for a Winter Olympics.
Lovinger said the network is projecting an audience "close" to the 21.4 million viewers who tuned in each night to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But the viewers watching NBC's telecasts on streaming devices will be figured into advertising deals as well, as the network has seen rapid growth of online viewing in recent Olympics. During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, 30% of the audience watched on internet-connected televisions.