SBD/June 7, 2011/Media

Comcast/NBC Wins U.S. Olympic TV Rights Through '20 Games For More Than $4B

NBC has won the U.S. television rights to the Olympic Games in a four-games deal, for ‘14, ‘16, ‘18 and ‘20, worth more than $4B. Sources said bids from ESPN and Fox fell short of the $2B that the IOC is currently receiving for the ‘10 and ‘12 Games. The bid marks an important win for Comcast, which officially took over the reins of NBC earlier this year. Comcast held onto the rights to the NHL last month and now has held onto another important cog in its sports programming schedule. NBC has carried every Summer Games since ‘88 and every Winter Games since ‘02. NBC’s winning bid comes just two-and-a-half weeks after the surprising and sudden resignation of Dick Ebersol, a longtime champion of the Olympic movement.

THE WINNING EFFORT: NBC’s 17-person bid team was led by three of Comcast’s top execs: Chair & CEO Brian Roberts, NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke and Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis. Ebersol’s replacement, Mark Lazarus, and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel also played instrumental roles in the bid. On the way into NBC’s presentation, Roberts declined to comment. “We’re going to go radio silent,” he said. Afterward, Lazarus, the new NBC Sports Chair, said, “We put our best foot forward and we look forward to hearing from them (the IOC) later. We’re very proud of our Olympic heritage.” When asked what it was like to present without Ebersol, Lazarus said, “I’ve never been there with him. We had a great team of people who put the best foot forward that NBC can with our heritage and legacy.” Longtime NBC Olympics host Bob Costas said, “I think we had a compelling presentation and we hope they felt the same way, and the rest is business.” He added that NBC’s message was that it had done the Olympics before and wanted to keep doing it. GE President of Olympics Sponsorship Peter Foss confirmed that a GE sponsorship would be part of NBC’s bid. GE agreed to pay the IOC $200M for a worldwide TOP program. After NBC’s presentation, Fox, ESPN and NBC execs congregated in a second-floor room at the IOC headquarters.

INSIDE ESPN'S BID: The morning started with ESPN’s presentation, which was the shortest of all three networks. Still, ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer expressed confidence that ESPN’s presentation went well. The presentation started early and lasted one hour and 20 minutes -- 40 minutes less than the two-hour allotment. Afterward, Bodenheimer declined to comment on whether ESPN would bid for two or four Olympics. He said ESPN’s plans to offer live coverage of the Olympics, its appeal to young viewers and the support of its parent company, Walt Disney, made its bid strong. Bodenheimer said, “We detailed the ways ESPN and the Walt Disney Co. can build the Olympics through our vast array of platforms and extensive live coverage. We look forward to placing our formal bid this afternoon.” ESPN’s presentation was heavy on Disney and Disney’s assets, sources said. They showed stats from Nielsen in the aging demos watching the Olympics, particularly 55-plus. They stressed Disney and ESPN’s appeal to reverse those trends. They talked about showing the games live on multiple networks during the daytime, including ABC. They talked about doing primetime coverage on ABC each night with repackaged programming. And they showed the WatchESPN app on a tablet computer. A big part of ESPN’s bid focused on World Cup consumption patterns.

THE MORE, THE MERRIER: ESPN and NBC today showed up for their presentations with larger delegations than Fox did yesterday and arrived early to make their presentations to the IOC. Both networks had the support of their corporate parents. Walt Disney President Bob Iger and CFO Jay Rasulo were part of ESPN’s delegation, and Roberts and Foss were part of NBC’s delegation. IOC President Jacques Rogge thanked them for coming and spoke about how important U.S. broadcast rights have been to funding not just the IOC and USOC but also international federations and more than 200 national Olympic committees. He joked that the IOC had a tough decision to make, saying that after seeing all the bidders’ presentations, IOC leaders now know all three networks are the No. 1 network in the U.S. He then asked Fox, ESPN and NBC to present their bids in that order. Lazarus, Bodenheimer and Fox CFO Larry Jones dropped their respective bids in a plexiglass box. The IOC began reviewing the bids after the networks left.

WHO WAS THERE: ESPN’s delegation included Bodenheimer, Iger, Rasulo, ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper, ESPN VP/Corporate Projects Rob Simmelkjaer, ESPN CFO Christine Driesssen, ESPN Senior VP/Production Mike Pearl (who has worked on six Olympics, including three with former ABC Sports Chair Roone Arledge), ESPN Assistant to the President Arne Rees and ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys. Fox’ presentation was Monday afternoon, and its six-person delegation was comprised of Fox Sports Chair David Hill, Fox Sports Media Group co-President and co-COO Randy Freer, CFO Larry Jones, Exec VP/Research & Programming Bill Wanger, CMO Eric Markgraf and Senior VP/Media Relations Lou D’Ermilio. Hill said News Corp. Deputy Chair, President & COO Chase Carey did not attend because he was “comfortable” with Hill presenting the network’s case.
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