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Record $900-million in commercial time sold for Olympics

NBC has sold a record $900-million in commercial time on its Sydney Olympics coverage and expects to make a small profit.

Neither the IOC bribery scandal nor the network's decision to show the Summer Games on tape because of the 15-hour time difference between Sydney and the East Coast discouraged advertisers, Keith Turner, president for NBC sales and marketing, said late last week.

"It's a question of 17 days and nights of a platform that you can't match in network television," Turner said in a telephone interview. "We are going to win (the audience ratings) every night."

The $900-million sales figure includes gross proceeds from commercial time sold on Olympics telecasts on NBC and cable networks CNBC and MSNBC. The games run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1.

That figure is up 32 percent from the old record of $680-million in ad sales for the 1996 Olympics, broadcast only on NBC.

Turner would not say Thursday how much of a profit the network will reap.

Among its costs, NBC is paying $705-million for the rights to carry the Olympics and is spending more than $100-million on production. In addition, it will have to pay tens of millions in ad agency and other fees based on the gross ad receipts.

Coca-Cola Co., the brewer Anheuser-Busch Inc., General Motors Corp., AT&T, Visa cards, Home Depot and IBM Corp. are expected to be among the sponsors.

One industry insider said the average price of a 30-second commercial in prime time on NBC was about $615,000, up from $420,000 in Atlanta in 1996.