NBC retains Olympic rights through 2020

Posted June 07, 2011, at 7:42 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 9:33 p.m.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — NBC retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth nearly $4.4 billion, defeating rival bids from ESPN and Fox.

“I can say the Olympics are really in their DNA,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said, referring to the network, which has dominated the Olympic broadcast scene in the U.S. for 20 years.

Now controlled by Comcast, NBC won the bid despite last month’s resignation of longtime sports and Olympics chief Dick Ebersol in a dispute with the new owners. NBC has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002, and it was the network’s experience and familiarity with the IOC — as well as its money — which won over the Olympic body again.

NBC now will have exclusive rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the 2018 Winter Games and 2020 Olympics, whose sites have not yet been chosen.

IOC TV rights negotiator Richard Carrion said the deal is worth $4.382 billion overall. That includes $2.01 billion for the 2014/16 Games and $2.38 billion for the 2018/20 Olympics.

Carrion declined to say how much the other networks offered. But executives with direct knowledge of the proposals told The Associated Press that Fox bid $3.4 billion for four games and $1.5 billion for two, while ESPN offered $1.4 billion for two.

The rights fees break down this way: $775 million for Sochi, $1.226 billion for Rio, $963 million for the 2018 Games and $1.418 billion for the 2020 Olympics.

“This secures the financial future for the next decade of the Olympic movement,” Rogge said.

It was the first U.S. rights auction since 2003, when NBC secured the 2010 and 2012 Olympics in a deal worth $2.2 billion. That included $2 billion in straight rights fees, plus a $200 million global sponsorship deal with NBC’s former parent company, General Electric.

The IOC had said it hoped to exceed that deal this time, and it did, slightly. The $4.38 billion figure for four games represents a small increase only in rights fees compared to the previous two-games package. Carrion said the IOC still hopes to reach a separate extension with GE as a top-tier sponsor.

Traditionally, the IOC awards the rights for two games at a time, but the networks expressed interest in going for a four-games package. They did so without knowing where the last two will be held. The IOC will select the 2018 host city on July 6 in Durban. The candidates are Annecy, France; Munich; and Pyeongchang, South Korea. The host of the 2020 Olympics will be chosen in 2013, and Rome is the only official contender so far.

“What was very important was the four-games bid,” Carrion said. “That is what put us over the line. NBC has proven its worth time and again over the years, and we’re very excited to continue working with them.”

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said NBC would take Olympic coverage “to greater heights than ever achieved before.”

“The depth of coverage and accessibility to U.S. consumers will never be greater,” he said.

Comcast executives have made clear they’re not interested in a repeat of the 2010 Vancouver Games, when NBC lost more than $200 million in a rough economy. NBC also stands to take a similar hit from next year’s London Olympics.

“It was very clear from the beginning that we wanted to be disciplined and responsible,” Roberts said. “We think this will be a profitable relationship. … I believe we will be profitable and build value for our shareholders.”

NBC was the last of three networks to make a formal presentation.

Among the 17-member NBC delegation was Bob Costas, who has hosted the network’s coverage of eight Olympics.

“My message was we’ve done it well and we’d like to do it again,” he said

Mark Lazarus, who replaced Ebersol as NBC Sports chairman, was asked about not having the former Olympic mastermind with the bid.

“I’ve never been here with him,” Lazarus said. “We have a great team of people who put the best foot forward with our heritage and legacy.’”

NBC’s main competition had been expected to come from ESPN/ABC.

ESPN brought the powerful Disney brand to the table, which had raised the prospect of a possible tie-in with the games.

Stephen Wilson can be followed at http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

 

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