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.