NBC's Mark Lazarus Defends Mix Of Live/Taped Coverage, Talks Costas Succession Plan
NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus yesterday sat for a 30-minute interview with SI.com's Richard Deitsch and addressed "multiple topics about the network's coverage and staffing including a succession plan for host Bob Costas, the positive reviews for analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, why the speech of IOC President Thomas Bach was edited during the Opening Ceremony and why NBC tape-delays some high-profile events to air them in primetime." NBC has faced its "share of criticism for taped coverage, though it has not been near the hysteria heard during the London Games." Lazarus said of the live/taped mix, "We said this in London and we will say this now: Every Games we learn more and the technology changes faster and we continue to evolve. We have the right mix for these Games. Is this the right mix for the next Games? I don't know. Most of what we do for Rio will be live. Thank goodness I don't have to answer this question at least until we get to Pyeongchang (in 2018)." The following are more excerpts from Lazarus' interview.
Q: You had six days without Bob Costas as the primetime host. How -- and did -- his absence make you think about the long-term succession for a staffer who has been one of the best Olympic hosts in history?
Lazarus: We said after Sochi we would start to think about what life after Bob might be, whether post-Rio, post-Pyeongchang, post-Tokyo, whenever he does not want to do it anymore. ... Certainly, we would be foolish not to be thinking about what a succession might look like. That is part of my job. I think about that for all sports. This obviously is a little bit of a wake-up call and it says make sure you are prepared because that day will come eventually.
Q: Why not use a traditional sports host such as Rebecca Lowe, Al Michaels or Dan Patrick to fill in for Bob on primetime?
Lazarus: Al is a game-caller and host and Dan is a host. Dan was also out sick for two days last week. So to change his whole structure was just impractical and didn't make sense. With that, we had Rebecca and Al doing longer days in their window. It just became too disruptive to everything we are trying to accomplish to take one of those guys and put them there.
Q: You have used hockey to promote the NBC Sports Network and the numbers for US-Russia will be great. Did you consider putting US-Russia on NBC, and would you consider putting a rematch on NBC?
Lazarus: Our plan all along was to do the large percentage of the tournament -- and certainly the U.S. men's and women's games -- on NBC Sports Network and utilize CNBC for other games. Then, have the finals for each tournament on NBC. That plan will remain intact.
Q: Why did you edit out a part of IOC president Thomas Bach's Opening Ceremony speech?
Lazarus: We edited for time. If you look at our minute-by-minute ratings, when speeches come on in any Olympic Games, ratings go down. It's just fact. We did edit for time but were very careful to make sure the message came through.
Q: People have loved the Tara Lipinski-Johnny Weir pairing on NBCSN's figure skating coverage to the point where many would like to see them as the your No. 1 team figure skating team on NBC. How have you viewed them?
Lazarus: They are terrific. They have done a great job. They have been on the air for the last several months for all kinds of Grand Prix events. The chemistry is there and real. They are pals. Terry Gannon does a nice job of doing his job and letting them blossom. We think very highly of them. We also think very highly of Tom Hammond, Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton. We feel that we have the two best figure skating teams in the world (SI.com, 2/17).