Bevacqua Details How NBC Landed Wild Card Game, Praises IOC Move
NBC Sports Group’s negotiations to secure an NFL Wild Card game were unlike any rights talks TV networks have undertaken in memory. With NFL and NBC execs sequestered in their homes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, they relied on old-fashioned telephone conversations instead of marathon bargaining sessions in a conference room. “There’s something to be said for sitting in a room together and hammering things out and talking to one another face-to-face and putting a strategy together,” said NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua. “But you play the hand you’re dealt. We knew that we had to do that over phone calls. It was constant conversations. But it really happened over the course of a two- or three-day period.” In his first on-the-record interview since most of the country has been told to shelter in place, Bevacqua said NBC went into the negotiations with plans to secure the Sunday night Wild Card game and make sure that it had the rights to stream the game via its Peacock service that launches today. Sources said that NBC agreed to pay a rights fee in the mid-$70M range for the game. “When these games became available, it was a series of internal conversations to make sure that we could put our best foot forward,” Bevacqua said. “To be able to have the power of that Wild Card game -- not just for NBC but also for Peacock -- is meaningful for us. We wanted to make sure that we were positioned properly.” In a wide-ranging phone interview, Bevacqua said that his team will utilize the same strategy for the next round of NFL rights that it used to get the Wild Card game. “We will go into the NFL negotiations like we did with the Wild Card negotiations,” he said. “We will be strategically aggressive. We’ll be prepared to put our best and smartest foot forward.”
PLEASED WITH IOC'S DECISION: Bevacqua said the IOC was in close contact with NBC execs as they decided to postpone the Tokyo Games, though he was clear in saying that the decision came from the IOC. He praised the decision to delay the Games by one year, pointing to a run of big events on NBC that will include the Olympics next summer followed by Super Bowl LVI and the Beijing Games in February '22. “The one-year postponement makes sense first and foremost for the athletes, but it also makes the most sense for us and for the sponsors,” he said. “Now, if you look at our overall portfolio ... it’s going to be an all-hands-on-deck approach and an amazing time for us at NBC Sports.” With 17 days of programming now freed up, Bevacqua said he has already had conversations with league partners about filling NBC’s schedule this summer. “In this very different world of putting events out, playing catchup and rescheduling, we have 17 valuable days now where we can help our partners out,” he said.
PLOTTING NBCSN'S SCHEDULE: With sports on hiatus, the on-air lineup for NBCSN has been devoted to themed programming, like an NHL week or a NASCAR week. NBC's Mike Tirico hosts a daily interview show that launched last week, and “The Rich Eisen Show” has been added to the channel's daytime lineup. “We’re just trying to get as creative as possible,” Bevacqua said. “We’re putting our heads down and getting through this. Like the rest of the world, we’re looking forward to emerging from it and getting back to normal, or as close to normal as possible, and really banging the drum for live sports.”