NBC has broadcast every Olympic Games this century--and the enormous, expensive production has been overseen by NBC chairman Dick Ebersol the whole time. But Ebersol has a new boss these days, since Comcast bought the network earlier this year. New NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke has said he doesn't want to pay for any sports deal he can't make money on. That presents a problem for Ebersol: NBC lost $223 million on the Vancouver games. London 2012 might lose money, too. Ebersol is so closely tied to the Games--he's been in charge of the American airing of every summer competition since 1988--that if NBC doesn't outbid its competitors for the rights to the Games in 2014, 2016, and possibly beyond, the TV legend could retire, the New York Post's Claire Atkinson reports.
"This is a big test of what Dick's role is," a source told Atkinson. Ebersol is a big proponent of airing major events in primetime, instead of live, which the International Olympic Committee prefers. "Dick is pushing back on Comcast's vision versus his own traditional experience," the source told Atkinson. "He saved everything for primetime and that met with opposition from some viewers."
Burke's change of priorities goes against NBC's tradition of paying huge sums for high-profile sports events, and Comcast is locked in "a robust discussion" about how much to bid for the Olympics, The Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Vascellaro and Matthew Futterman report. Executives think they can only make money if they win a $5 billion bid for all Olympics from 2014 to 2020, instead of just 2014 and 2016. Comcast would also want to spread marquee events across cable channels, instead of saving them for NBC: putting the events on cable channels "would allow them to raise their monthly fees," Vascellaro and Futterman explain.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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