NBC/Comcast has won the U.S. Olympic TV rights for the next four games, for $4.38 billion.
The media conglom snagged the deal for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the 2018 Winter Games and the 2020 Games for which sites have not yet been selected.
NBC has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002.
NBC Comcast outbid ESPN – a division of Disney, which also owns ABC – and Fox Sports. All three companies had submitted sealed envelopes into a see-through plexiglass box, then left the building to let International Olympic Committee officials open them and consider the offers in private. That according to the Associated Press, reporting from Lausanne, Switzerland.
IOC received “three excellent bids” but, in the end, decided to go with its “longstanding partner NBC,” committee president Jacques Rogge said Tuesday, because NBC “has a track record for broadcasting the Games that speaks for itself,” and it had a “clear and innovative” idea how to grow that coverage.
In its pitch, NBC said it would offer viewers live coverage of every Games event on one of the NBC/Comcast platforms, while NBC broadcast network would continue its tradition of tape-delayed Games play, laced with those treacly human interest stories that viewers lap up.
ESPN offered “best wishes to Comcast/NBC” on securing exclusive U.S. rights to the Games. On the other hand, ESPN also said, like it meant it to sting, that its own “compelling” offer had “included the enthusiastic participation of all of The Walt Disney Company’s considerable assets.”
“We made a disciplined bid that would have brought tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our company. To go any further would not have made good business sense for us,” ESPN said Tuesday in its concession statement.
Fox Sports Media Group chairman David Hill also had things he wanted to get off his chest. He congratulated NBC/Comcast, but added that Fox Sports’ bid would have provided “the largest marketing platform ever and an economic package we believed to be good for the IOC and [Fox parent company] News Corp.”
The announcement comes less than three weeks after Dick Ebersol -- the charismatic NBC suit who has been the face of Olympics coverage in this country for a couple decades – resigned abruptly when his contract-renewal talks collapsed.
(Ebersol’s the guy to thank/blame for all those human interest stories that litter Olympics coverage.)
NBC previously skunked ESPN and Fox in 2003, when it coughed up more than $2 billion for U.S. rights to the 2010 Winter Games, in Vancouver, and the upcoming ‘12 Summer Games, in London.
On the other hand, NBC lost more than $200 million on Vancouver.
Ebersol was to have been part of the NBC/Comcast entourage in Lausanne, pitching the IOC on the U.S. TV rights to the next round of Games. Ebersol was replaced by Mark Lazarus, the new chairman of NBC Sports Group who, on Tuesday, had this to say:
“It is a great thrill to know that NBC’s unsurpassed Olympics heritage and unprecedented partnership with the IOC will continue through 2020.”