NBC Bids Billions And Retains Olympic TV Franchise

Jun 7, 2011
Originally published on June 8, 2011 12:22 pm

NBC beat out rivals Fox and ABC/ESPN Tuesday to win yet again the gold medal franchise in sports broadcasting.

And it cost the veteran Olympic broadcaster an average of $1 billion dollars an Olympics for the four winter and summer games from 2014 through 2020.

That's a record deal for the exclusive American rights to the Olympics and came despite NBC's loss of legendary Olympic producer Dick Ebersol in a contract dispute. It also came despite the seeming reticence of new NBC owner Comcast in the wake of a deficit of more than $200 million after last year's Vancouver Winter Games.

Details of the deal and reaction from NBC, Comcast and the International Olympic Committee, are expected in a news conference beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Fox and ABC/ESPN promised live coverage of all Olympic competition, striking at a common complaint about NBC's tape-delayed coverage.

NBC was the last to pitch its bid in closed-door meetings with IOC officials in Lausanne, Switzerland. An NBC Sports vice president is also an IOC member. But an IOC spokesman insists that Alex Gilady, the IOC delegate from Israel, had no formal or informal role in the bidding.

In a statement, ESPN indicated it dropped out of the bidding after the price escalated.

"To go any further would not have made good business sense for us," the ESPN statement said. "We put our best foot forward with a compelling offer that included the enthusiastic participation of all of The Walt Disney Company's considerable assets."

Update at 2:10 p.m. ET: "The Olympics are in their DNA," said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.

Update at 2:59 p.m. ET: Executives from NBC and Comcast would not specify how much live cable and broadcast coverage they'll provide of the Olympics.

"We will make every event available on one platform or another live," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports. "How we package prime time will be to make it available to garner the most viewers."

NBC's rights package includes platforms not viewed on cable or broadcast television. "It is for tablet...It is for mobile. It is for broadband," Lazarus added. "It is for every now known or to be known or still to be conceived set of rights."

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NBC has retained its hold on the Olympics through 2020. The network, now owned by Comcast, just sealed a $4.4 billion dollar deal with the International Olympic Committee.

As NPR's Howard Berkes reports, NBC is promising more live coverage.

HOWARD BERKES: But not necessarily on television. If you want the marathon swim live, or cross-country skiing live, or everything live, NBC's Mark Lazarus points to...

Mr. MARK LAZARUS (President, NBC Sports): Every platform known today or to become known between now and the time the deal comes up. It is for television. It is for tablet. It is for mobile. It is for broadband.

BERKES: Olympic prime time will be programmed...

Mr. LAZARUS: ...to garner the most viewers, the biggest groups, the shared experiences of families.

BERKES: Which should bring in more money from commercials. NBC needs more, given its $200 million deficit from last year's Vancouver Olympics. The new deal starts in 2014 and extends through three more games. None are set for the United States so far, so there's no home country Olympics to make the unprecedented $4 billion deal a better bet.

Still, says Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts...

Mr. BRIAN ROBERTS (CEO, Comcast): We are confident that we will build value for our shareholders and have a profitable relationship.

BERKES: But ABC/ESPN dropped out of the bidding citing good business sense. The International Olympic Committee is happy because American broadcast rights are the single biggest source of Olympic revenue and they're now locked in for a decade.

Howard Berkes, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.