SBD/June 8, 2011/Media

NBC Keeps The Games: Live Broadcasts Will Increase Under New Deal, But How Much?

Lazarus (l) says coverage of '12 Games will include more streaming in real time
The "big question" after Comcast/NBC's winning bid for the rights to the '14-20 Olympics is "whether Comcast/NBC will air the totality of the Games live, a key component of Fox and ESPN's plans," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Under outgoing NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol, the "mantra was to protect the Olympic prime-time show at all costs, so it could maximize the highest ad dollars." That "often meant tape-delayed coverage." But current NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus yesterday said that a "strategic shift is in the works." Lazarus: "We will make every event available on one platform or another live." Lazarus added that the '12 London Games "will include more streaming to the marketplace in real time" (SI.com, 6/7). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes whether there will be "more live TV coverage won't be known until Lazarus and NBC produce the first Olympics without Ebersol in two decades" in London (USA TODAY, 6/8).

TAKING IT GAMES BY GAMES
: Lazarus said NBC going forward has a "smart plan that will allow the super fan to watch events live and not detract from the prime-time audience when we are in host cities that time zones make it difficult to be live in prime time." He said that NBC "plans to air more live coverage" of the '16 Rio de Janeiro Games "because of the similar time zone to the East Coast." But the AP's Stephen Wilson noted Sochi, Russia, the site of the '14 Games, is "in an unfavorable time zone for live U.S. coverage" (AP, 6/7). Lazarus said that "all coverage from Rio ... would be live and there would be more live hours [than] ever on both broadcast and cable." AROUND THE RINGS' Rosen & Hula noted the plan for the Sochi Games is "too early to determine." IOC Exec Committee Member Richard Carrion said, "They understand the importance of live, they also understand the importance of telling the story and we think they have reached that right balance in the past. I think they'll continue to get it right" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 6/7).

FOREVER TELLING STORIES: In L.A., Joe Flint notes though NBC "will make future Games live on various platforms, that doesn't mean it will cut back on its storytelling format." NBC during Ebersol's tenure "opted for a drama-heavy narrative approach that sometimes upset sports purists because it seemed to favor sentimentality over competition." But Lazarus "defended the NBC style and promised the IOC more of the same." Lazarus: "That was a big part of our presentation. It's a huge part of the success of the Games and how we deliver family audiences" (L.A. TIMES, 6/8). More Lazarus: "We've done a lot of learning over the years as NBC has broadcast the Olympics and many sports. I think you'll see that we'll start to provide more live coverage on multiple platforms, whether it's through broadband, through the tablets, through mobile devices. But we will still focus on telling broad stories about sports, broad stories about the athletes, broad stories about the trials and tribulations and how these great athletes come to the games” ("Nightly News," NBC, 6/7). 3WIRESPORTS.com's Alan Abrahamson wrote the "best stuff presumably will be shown again in prime-time," as it "still draws families together before the big screen; that remains one of the main lures for sponsors." Fox and ESPN "made clear they would show events live," but "everyone knew NBC would be doing so too -- that was one of the main benefits of the Comcast merger." Abrahamson: "Before, NBC had to rely on prime-time advertising sales. Now there would be considerably less financial pressure because of the added revenue stream from cable sub-fees" (3WIRESPORTS.com, 6/7).

STREAMING NOT THE SOLUTION
: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote one of the "cons" of the deal is that "streaming or not, it still sounds like NBC plans to tape delay television broadcasts." The net "plans to stream some events live on the internet and then hold its television broadcast until primetime," which is "an improvement, but not ideal." Under Ebersol, NBC was "notorious for tape delaying Olympic coverage until primetime, seeing it as the best way to attract viewers in the most profitable advertising time of the day," but in the "digital age of the Internet and Twitter and Facebook, that wasn't going to fly for too much longer." Chase: "For now, streaming is an acceptable, if lesser, option" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/7). CSNBayArea.com's Barry Tompkins said of the tape-delay strategy, “I don't agree with it but for NBC it's primetime entertainment programming. ... Everything works. It's very nice. People like it. It obviously gets good ratings. I don't agree with it. To me, the Olympics are still a sports event and I think sports events need to be live. I just think it's that simple. But I’m not the one dishing out $4.3 billion” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 6/7).

CONTENT AVAILABLE ON MORE PLATFORMS: Lazarus noted the deal "encompasses every platform known today -- TV, tablet, mobile, broadband -- now known or to be conceived. It's all encompassing. We will bring the Games to more people in more platforms than any other (company) doing business now." Analysts believe that the "explosion of new-media platforms should help NBCU develop more revenue-generating opportunities around the Olympics" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/8).
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NBC, Comcast Corp., Media, IOC

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