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Volume 24 No. 115
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NBC Sports' Mark Lazarus Discusses Olympics, NFL Rights

Ratings are why NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus and his bosses “shelled out more than $15 billion on sports rights last year in wide-ranging deals that lock up the NHL, NFL, PGA Tour, Olympics and Spanish-language World Cup for years to come,” according to Marisa Guthrie of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Lazarus said that this summer's London Games “already have booked more than $900 million in national ad dollars and are on pace to surpass Beijing's $1 billion haul, though it's too early to tell if the company ultimately will make back the $1.2 billion Lazarus' predecessor, Dick Ebersol, spent prior to the financial collapse of 2008.” The Super Bowl will bring in “more than $250 million.” Guthrie notes Lazarus and Ebersol are “in many ways opposites in temperament and style.” Ebersol is “a showman and skilled flesh-presser,” whereas Lazarus “is understated and admittedly self-conscious about publicity.” The following is an excerpt from a Q&A with Lazarus.

Q: Everyone assumes sports is a loss leader. But Ebersol always maintained that the NFL was profitable for NBC. Does "Sunday Night Football" make money?
Lazarus: In some cases, historically that's been accurate (that football loses money). We don't believe that this deal, with all the enhancements we got (a Thanksgiving game, another divisional playoff game and three Super Bowls) and the longevity of it, that that will be the case.

Q: Is the cost of these deals going to get passed on to cable and satellite customers?
Lazarus: I can't predict if a packaged-goods company is going to raise their prices because we charge more because our ratings are higher. But our (sports) ratings are as high as they've ever been, and we should be compensated for the value that we bring to marketers. And we are.

: The Olympics will be live on NBC Sports Network every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Are you looking for higher fees from cable operators for the channel?
Lazarus: Sure, we'd love to get more money for it. But our first job with NBC Sports Network is to continue to round out the distribution. We're in 76 or 77 million homes today with the goal of getting into 90 million homes. We have some operators that we're working on to be fully distributed as opposed to just well-distributed.

Q: Is there still a concern at the company that airing the Olympics live will undercut primetime tune-in?
Lazarus: Yes, and some things we'll put live on cable networks, and some things we'll just stream online. … And we'll still protect some of the big sports; we'll do what we can to not cannibalize the audience (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 2/10 issue).