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Volume 21 No. 2
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NBC hands Simmelkjaer e-sports role

NBC Sports Group has put senior vice president Rob Simmelkjaer in charge of coming up with an e-sports strategy.

To date, NBC has not developed or acquired any e-sports content. But by placing the longtime media executive in charge of its e-sports efforts, NBC is demonstrating that it is taking this new category seriously. The network would not elaborate on its e-sports plans, describing its work as exploratory.

One potential snag that Simmelkjaer has to solve deals with exclusivity. NBC, in particular, is averse to sharing programming rights. Its deals with the NHL and EPL, for example, give the network exclusive rights. NBC’s NFL and NASCAR rights give the network exclusive broadcast windows.

In e-sports, though, game publishers and tournament operators see TV networks as an extension of their streaming coverage, not a replacement.

NBC’s work as the Olympics broadcaster may provide a blueprint for how it would address e-sports, with linear TV programming that focuses on telling the stories behind the gamers as much as covering the competition. “Most people are not all that knowledgeable about the Olympics, but they watch it,” said David Rosenberg, chief strategic officer at GMR Marketing, which counts NBC parent Comcast as a client. “And they watch it because they want to understand more things about sports they don’t see normally, and they want to hear the stories about the athletes.”

Simmelkjaer has a background in developing new properties and programming concepts. He joined NBC Sports in 2011 from ESPN and has overseen the network’s action sports and radio programming strategies.

Eric Grilly, former president of NBC’s action sports division, also was involved in the e-sports strategizing, according to a memo he sent colleagues before his January departure.