NBC Taps Golf Channel's Molly Solomon To Lead Olympics
NBC Sports has picked Golf Channel Exec Producer Molly Solomon to replace longtime Olympics production head Jim Bell, solidifying her position as the highest-ranking woman in television sports production. Solomon, who will retain her Golf Channel duties, will report to NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua. Bell announced his departure on Nov. 4 after 29 years with NBC, leaving the net with the urgent task of finding a replacement only nine months before the Tokyo Games.
Solomon had not been widely floated as a possible successor to Bell, but Bevacqua said Solomon was an "obvious choice" because of her background in the Olympics. She worked on 10 Olympic Games for NBC prior to taking the Golf Channel job in '12. "As we went through the process, this was a very apparent decision, and quite frankly, a very easy decision to make," Bevacqua said. "It was not one wrestled with or heavily debated."
Solomon acknowledged the challenges she’ll confront taking on the job with just nine months before Tokyo. "We could call this a shotgun marriage, but it’s been going on for 30 years," said Solomon, whose full title will be NBC Sports Exec Producer & President of Olympics Production. "It’s been a whirlwind. Sometimes you get a phone call that can change the direction of your professional life, and that was the call I got from Pete."
The Olympics division’s reporting structure is unchanged. Like Bell did, Solomon will handle all production of the Games and the domestic Olympic Channel, while NBC Sports President of Olympics & Business Gary Zenkel will run the business of the Games broadcast. NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood will continue to have input but his official duties are unchanged, Bevacqua said. Solomon said early on she will look for ways to leverage the Tokyo time zone to "enliven" the Olympics' primetime broadcast. But overall, she said, she is "confident in the plan that’s been laid out and I look forward to digging in."
Solomon started with NBC Olympics in '90 as a researcher, and also worked as a features producer and associate director before being promoted to coordinating producer of cable coverage in '00, and then coordinating producer of all NBC Olympics in '06. When golf returned to the Olympics at the '16 Rio Games, she produced that coverage as well. Her promotion to Golf Channel in '12 made her the first woman to run a national sports channel. However, Solomon said she wants to be noticed for her professional accomplishments, not her gender. "If I can knock that down and nobody else (in the future) has to think about that, then that’s a good thing," she said.