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NBC yesterday formally introduced Jim Bell as full-time Exec Producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympic Games coverage after spending more than seven years working on "Today." After the announcement, Bell spoke about his new role.
Q: As the full-time Exec Producer of the Olympics, what will you do when the Olympics are not going on?
Bell: There's always an Olympics going on. The effort and undertaking that goes into the planning and production of the thousands of people and the thousands of hours is something that requires years of advanced work. You have to pick producers, you have to pick talent, you have to arrange programming schedules. The turnaround, particularly around summer and winter, is particularly tight.
Q: What do you mean?
Bell: Having just come back from a trip to Russia, and knowing that there's a little bit of a sense of urgency here as we're kind of talking about 13 months out, that's a situation that requires full-time attention.
Q: How often have you gone to Russia?
Bell: That was my first.
Q: When did you go?
Bell: Just a couple of weeks ago.
Q: How often do you expect to be over there in the next 13 months?
Bell: I would guess two or three times before the Olympics.
Q: How difficult was it to leave the "Today" show?
Bell: It's bittersweet. To put in seven-and-a-half years was an incredibly humbling and life-changing experience. When you start to look at the truly special franchises in television, the ones that have stood the test of time and the ones that continue to not just be relevant but really thrive, it's a very short list. The Olympics are on that list. And the "Today" show is on that list.
Q: Why do you want this job?
Bell: Part of it goes back to being a kid and watching the Olympics, as an 11 year old, watching the Miracle on Ice. The global aspect of it is particularly appealing to me. Particularly at a time when the world could use its share of positive moments, the Olympics are a particularly great example of the world coming together. That may sound trite to some. But having done my share of Olympics, it doesn't to me.
Q: What did you learn from the London Games regarding tape-delayed telecasts and time-shifted TV? How do you plan to apply that to Sochi?
Bell: One thing we learned from London is that live streaming not only didn't hurt, it may have actually helped drive overall interest in viewership. As great as London was, I think we have to look at Russia and Rio and say, how are we going to take it to the next level? We don't just want to say, "Okay. Let's do that again." We need to evolve. We need to grow. We need to change and adapt to the times and technologies. The Olympics are a tremendous vehicle for that.
Q: How does that affect the tape-delayed issues?
Bell: As you saw in London, we offered something live in one place and tape delayed in another. You have to see how one will impact the other. We had a good experience with that in London.
The playing status of Jets QB Tim Tebow has been debated in many different venues, but it popped up in a strange place yesterday -- ESPN’s coverage of the Butler-Xavier men’s college basketball game. Xavier was comfortably ahead with around four minutes left in the game when ESPN analyst Dan Dakich asked his broadcast partner Bob Wischusen, the Jets’ radio play-by-play announcer, why the Jets are not playing Tebow. Feigning disgust, Wischusen asked, “Why are you doing this to me? We’re having a very pleasant afternoon, and you’ve got to do that to me?” A few minutes after a commercial break, Dakich again began talking about Tebow. Wischusen said, “Didn’t we get word from Bristol that we had actually allowed, like, 11 minutes of airtime to go by without mentioning Tebow. I think that’s the standard company rule. Every 15 minutes of every program -- regardless of what sport is being aired -- Tim Tebow must be mentioned. So good job of you following the company line.” Laughing, Dakich said, “Execs at ESPN, I did not say that. He did. But I will say this: I wonder when Brett Favre is coming back!” Later, as time was expiring, Dakich noted Tebow “resurrected” the Broncos last year. Wischusen: “Can we run the clock, please?” (“Butler-Xavier,” ESPN, 11/13).
NEVER ENOUGH TEBOW? DEADSPIN.com's John Koblin wrote ESPN has had a "yearlong infatuation with Tebow, a player who hasn't made much actual news since he was traded to the Jets in March." ESPN execs have "decided that what we want -- or what we should want -- is Tebow." Author Jim Miller, who co-wrote the ESPN book “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” said, "They want to own the Tebow story. They want to put their watermark on it." Koblin wrote this helps explain why ESPN during the summer "dispatched veteran reporter Sal Paolantonio and a crew to cover Jets camp as if it were the run-up to the Super Bowl." It also explains "why ESPN2's 'First Take' referred to Tim Tebow more than seven dozen times in late May even though there was absolutely no Tebow news to report on," and why it "seemed perfectly reasonable to a 'SportsCenter' anchor to ask in-studio guest Liam Neeson whether Tim Tebow should be the Jets' starting quarterback even though Liam Neeson had no clue what he was talking about." The steady stream of Tebow "non-news is as much a part of ESPN's identity now as Chris Berman doing NFL highlights on Sunday night" (DEADSPIN.com, 11/12).
READ ALL ABOUT IT: ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" spent a fair amount of time this morning discussing a N.Y. Daily News report in which Tebow is described as "terrible" by an anonymous teammate. ESPN's Jalen Rose wrote on his Twitter feed, "Breaking news: The media mandates not to over-analyze Tebow until he actually starts a game. ... that was a nice dream" (TWITTER.com, 11/14).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jannarone & Schechner reported Discovery Communications "plans to pay several hundred million dollars for a minority stake" in sports network Eurosport, a unit of French media company TF1. Discovery will "form a strategic partnership with TF1 as a result of the investment." While a formal agreement has not been signed, Discovery and TF1 have "entered exclusive negotiations." An announcement "could come shortly" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/13).
FOREVER YOUNG: In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce writes of BYU's exclusive TV rights deal with ESPN, "Is the worldwide leader in sports unhappy because the Cougars haven't delivered on the field?" Pierce: "Isn't ESPN disappointed with the Cougars' 6-4 record?" ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Ilan Ben-Hanan said, "On the contrary, I've been thrilled with our relationship with them." He said of BYU's ratings on the net, "Just look at the numbers, the two Thursday games early in the season (vs. Washington State and vs. Boise State) both out-rated the Thursday average so far this year. They are absolutely pulling their weight. That's just a fact" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 11/14).
VIDEOGAME GAINS: Competitive video gaming property Major League Gaming said it has concluded its '12 Pro Circuit Championships schedule with an online streaming audience of 11.7 million unique viewers, up 334% from '11, and up 636% over a two-year span. MLG also surpassed 15 million hours of consumed live video for the second consecutive year. "This is a testament to the mainstream demand for competitive gaming and power of live streaming," said MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni. MLG's audience is 85% male and 60% between the ages of 18-34 (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
MOVING ON: Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, has "accepted a position as a correspondent with CNN." Ganim "started with CNN this week." Charles Thompson -- who has "covered the Capitol and Harrisburg for years -- will take over as lead reporter on the Penn State/Sandusky coverage" (PENNLIVE.com, 11/13).