SBD/August 31, 2011/Media

Ebersol Returning To NBC Sports As Senior Adviser For "SNF," London Games

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Ebersol returning to NBC Sports after resigning five months ago
Former NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol is "returning to the sports division as a senior adviser" to his successor, Mark Lazarus, on NBC's "SNF" and '12 London Olympics coverage, according to Sandomir & Carter of the N.Y. TIMES. Ebersol, who resigned from NBC Sports in May, "will contribute ideas to Lazarus about production of the NFL games this season and the London Olympics." Any "further involvement will be up to Lazarus, but Ebersol is expected to attend" the Games next summer. NBC yesterday also appointed "Today" Producer Jim Bell to replace Ebersol as Exec Producer of the network's Olympics coverage, and Bell's "long experience at NBC Sports" was "among the reasons for his hiring." Sandomir & Carter note NBC Sports "had several internal candidates who could have succeeded Ebersol," including Olympics Coordinating Producer Molly Solomon and NBC Sports and Versus Exec Producer Sam Flood. NBCUniversal President & CEO Steve Burke said, "We talked about other people, but we kept coming back to Jim." Bell became a "protege of Ebersol's, much as Ebersol was an acolyte of Roone Arledge." NBC's Bob Costas: "Jim broke in under Dick, and although he's been with the 'Today' show for the past several years, he has a friendship with all the key people involved in NBC Olympics. It's not like he's arriving from another planet" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). Bell will continue his duties with "Today" until the Olympics, "although he will be traveling to the U.K. often over the next 12 months" to prepare for the Games (DAILY VARIETY, 8/31). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote, "It's little wonder Lazarus should look to tap the natural resource that is Ebersol; not only did he negotiate NBC's Olympic deals, but as executive producer, he's put on the most successful TV sportscasts in history" (ADWEEK.com, 8/30). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes having Bell and Ebersol join NBC's coverage for the London Games "suggests NBC, under Comcast, isn't looking at a radical Olympic TV overhaul" (USA TODAY, 8/31).

'ROUND THE CLOCK: The AP's Rachel Cohen reported NBC's coverage of next summer's Olympics, for the first time, will include "every event live in some form -- even if it's just raw video streaming online." NBC's primetime broadcasts "will still use that traditional formula of human-interest features and taped competition." Lazarus believes that the "sports fan of today demands immediacy -- and that doesn't have to be mutually exclusive to highly stylized broadcasts aired when people are most likely to be sitting in front of the TV." Lazarus: "I believe in that, and that will be some philosophical shift from my predecessor." He continued, "You can show things in its rawest form to satisfy the immediacy and then you can package it and make it a bigger story and broader and more inclusive of other elements, and people will watch it again and bring others with them." NBC recently secured U.S. media rights to the four Olympics from '14-20, and "as part of that agreement, the network planned to show every event live starting in 2014." That approach will now "extend to two years earlier in London, as NBC experiments to figure out what works best." At the '96 Atlanta Games, NBC "showed 172 total hours of coverage." Lazarus said that he expects "about 275 hours a day from London" across all NBC platforms (AP, 8/30). USA TODAY's Hiestand noted coverage of all Olympic events is "readily available," since any rightsholder "has access to the Olympic world feed." Hiestand: "It makes sense to finally give viewers live access. Live daytime coverage will build, rather than deflate, buzz for prime-time shows" (USA TODAY, 8/31). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote the "biggest winner in the deal are viewers on the west coast who were routinely shut out of live coverage that was beamed to the east." NBC's decision "was a long time coming," and "time will tell whether this has a positive effect on the network's bottom line." Primetime numbers "may dip slightly for the main network, but the benefit for NBC's cable channels, which will now be picked up by most cable companies, could make up the difference" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/30).
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