SBD/Issue 102/Olympics

Bob Costas, Al Michaels Lead NBC's Olympic Roster Of Broadcasters

 
NBC today announced its roster of 53 commentators for its 17-day coverage of the Vancouver Games, led by Bob Costas, who will once again serve as the net's primetime host. Al Michaels will serve as the daytime host in his NBC Olympics debut, while Mary Carillo returns as both late-night host and Olympic correspondent. Bill Patrick will host the hockey coverage from Vancouver, while Fred Roggin will again serve as curling host. NBC's Olympic correspondents include Cris Collinsworth, who will provide on-the-ground reports throughout Vancouver, and Dick Button. In addition, Terry Gannon will host "Vancouver Olympic News Center" daily on Universal Sports along with Lindsay Soto. Gannon also will host "The Vancouver Figure Skating Hour" each day on the net. Jimmy Roberts will anchor "Meet the Olympic Press," a daily roundtable discussion with veteran reporters (NBC).

LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE? The CP's Gary Mason noted while NBC "expects to lose money televising" the Games, it "also anticipates near record-setting audience numbers." NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said that the network is expected to lose around $200M because "negotiations with advertisers took place amid a profound recessionary environment." He said that companies "were willing to buy ads," but just "not at prices NBC was asking." Ebersol: "They reached a line in the sand and they said 'that's it, we're not going to pay over it.'" But he "doesn't think it reflects, as some do, a loss of faith in the Olympics as a vehicle to sell products." Ebersol is "quite bullish about the Games" overall. He said, "This is only the second Winter Olympics in history that will have over 200 million watching -- only Lillehammer had more" (CP, 2/5). Meanwhile, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium said that it is "too soon to tell" how it will do financially during the Games. Broadcast rights in Canada for the Games jumped to C$28M for the '06 Turin Olympics from C$12M for Lillehammer in '94, and hit a "record-breaking" C$90M for Vancouver (TORONTO STAR, 2/9).

NBC Plans To Stream Only About 400 Hours Of
Live Events, Down From Beijing Coverage In '08
TO SERVE & PROTECT: MEDIAWEEK's Mike Shields reported NBC for its coverage of the Games is "de-emphasizing its focus on streaming the games live on the Web in favor of short highlighted clips." NBC will "only stream hockey and curling events live on the Web this year -- roughly 400 hours of video." NBC Sports & Olympics Senior VP/ Digital Media Perkins Miller said, "One of the things we learned in Beijing is that people really go to the Web for highlights. ... People are not dying to watch lots of long-form content on a 13-inch screen." Shields reported NBC also is "doing its damnedest to make sure that fans can't find unauthorized or illegally posted live footage of any events." While "tech-savvy fans can find ways to stream long-form events," the net plans to "actively police the Web during the games, using tools to crawl the Web and block content automatically whenever possible" (MEDIAWEEK.com, 2/7). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes NBC is "obsessed with protecting its money-losing investment in these Games." The net reportedly "hired interns from the local college, then informed them their primary duty was to spy on rival broadcasters to make certain they do not infringe on rights agreements" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). In Seattle, Brier Dudley reported viewers attempting to watch live coverage and full-event replay on NBCOlympics.com for the first time will "have to prove that they subscribe to premium-cable service." Fans only had to "provide a Zip code" for previous Games (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/8).

ARE THE OLYMPICS STILL VALUABLE? In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton noted questions are "being raised about the relevance of an expensive, three-week global sports carnival." These will be the "first Olympics shot entirely" in HD, and "that can't hurt." But the "challenge for NBC will be how to present the bell cow of every Winter Olympics, figure skating, when the U.S. women are not expected to be in the medal hunt." LeBreton: "The Olympic Winter Games are back in North America, back in prime time. Ready and waiting for your high-definition scrutiny. Let the $820 million TV gamble begin" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7).

STILL IN DEMAND: In a cover-story for BROADCASTING & CABLE, Marisa Guthrie notes despite the "bleak financial outlook" for the Vancouver Games, NBC is one of several networks "considering lining up for a shot at the next round" of U.S. Olympic rights. The worth of "such an endeavor is increasingly uncertain," and the next package of the '14 Sochi and '16 Rio de Janeiro Games "is a mixed bag for potential U.S. rights holders." Sochi is "eight hours ahead of New York," but NBC Olympics Exec VP & Exec Producer David Neal contends that Sochi is "nevertheless attractive and shares similarities" with the '02 Salt Lake City Games. Sports media consultant Neal Pilson: "It's a question of setting expectation levels. I'm sure Comcast and GE and NBC have had discussions about the upcoming negotiations, and I would think that given the importance of the Olympics to NBC, Comcast would support an NBC effort to retain that franchise." But with ESPN/ABC expected to bid as well, SNL Kagan senior analyst Deana Myers said, "The last few Olympics have been break-even or just a little profit. It makes sense for the Olympics to be on a sports network because they can (amortize) more of the content" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 2/8 issue).

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