NBC locks up US Olympic TV rights through 2020

By Stephen Wilson

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 5:30 p.m. MDT

This photo provided by International Olympic Committee shows IOC President Jacques Rogge delivering a speech in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 7 ,2011. NBC retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth nearly US$4.4 billion, defeating rival bids from ESPN and Fox.

IOC, Richard Juilliart) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Bob Costas made the pitch and NBC met the price.

The peacock network outbid Fox and ESPN by almost a billion dollars Tuesday to win U.S. television rights to four more Olympics and keep the games through 2020.

The result: a $4.38 billion knockout for NBC.

Despite a recent change in ownership, the sudden departure of longtime Olympic chief Dick Ebersol and an uncertain economy, NBC and its parent company, Comcast, defied speculation that its grip on the Olympics was coming to an end.

"I can say the Olympics are really in their DNA," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said. "We've been together with them for so many games with great success."

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. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the IOC declined to say how much the other networks offered.

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 — that won over the Olympic body again.

"My message was, 'we've done it well and we'd like to do it again,'" Costas, who has hosted NBC's coverage of eight Olympics, said shortly after all three networks dropped their envelopes with sealed bids into a clear plastic box.

NBC now has exclusive rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 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. The deal includes all broadcast platforms, including Internet, mobile and hand-held devices.

"You think definitely of the finances, but you think also of the past experiences, you think of the enthusiasm of the team, the technical qualities," Rogge said. "We thought that was the best combination."

IOC TV rights negotiator Richard Carrion said NBC would pay $775 million for Sochi, $1.226 billion for Rio, $963 million for the 2018 Winter Games and $1.418 billion for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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

"I'm bitterly disappointed," Fox sports chairman David Hill said.

ESPN had played up the potential impact of parent company Disney, including its appeal to a young audience.

"To go any further would not have made good business sense for us," ESPN said in a statement. "We put our best foot forward with a compelling offer that included the enthusiastic participation of all of The Walt Disney Co.'s considerable assets."

In the last rights auction in 2003, NBC outbid Fox and ESPN to secure 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 $4.382 billion figure for four games represents a small increase only in rights fees compared with the previous two-games package. Carrion said the IOC still hopes to reach a separate extension with GE as a top-tier sponsor.

"This was not a component of the deal," Carrion said. "We wanted to just focus on the broadcast rights."

More than just the money and long-term nature of the deal, though, was the powerful impact that Costas and the rest of the 17-person delegation made in the two-hour closed-door presentation to the IOC. They hit hard on the emotional aspect, including a tear-jerking video about the network's love and dedication for the games.

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