Comcast's $4.4B Olympian bid a bold online bet

By Ryan Nakashima

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Comcast has been steadily rolling out its Xfinity TV software, which allows subscribers to watch shows on different devices and over the Web. Comcast will likely try to use that to make more money from the games.

Networks also have been increasing the amount of video ads accompanying online shows.

Analysts believe Comcast has plenty of time and the right combination of channels, websites and subscribers to start cutting its losses in 2014.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said he's confident the games will be profitable, helped by new technology and the long-term nature of the deal.

Even for a company that made $3.6 billion in net income last year, losing $200 million every few years is not a strategy for success.

The intangible value it gets for promoting NBC shows may have been a deciding factor in its bid.

NBC, for instance, can use the Summer Games to promote promising new dramas or comedies on its fall lineups. That's similar to the way CBS launched its reality show "Undercover Boss" to audiences immediately after the Super Bowl last year.

There's no good estimate on how much NBC shows might benefit from the promotional boost.

Its competitors had less reason to seek it out.

Almost every U.S. home already has The Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN. It's the market leader in getting fees from cable, satellite and other TV service providers.

The boost to Disney's ABC network wasn't deemed enough to justify paying more, according to a person with knowledge of the bid. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the network was not releasing details of the proposal.

News Corp.'s Fox, meanwhile, is already the leader in attracting viewers aged 18 to 49 — the group most sought by advertisers. That's partly because of its enduring hit, "American Idol."

Ahead of its takeover, Comcast promised government regulators that it would invest to rebuild NBC. Carrying the Olympics fits with that strategy.

"The Olympics are a ratings builder for all other TV shows," said sports agent Brant Feldman, managing partner of American Group Management. "NBC is a fourth-place network right now, but if you assume the programming is going to get better in the future, then the Olympics can be a jumping board to all that other viewership."

AP National Writer Eddie Pells in Denver and Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.

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