UPDATED: 4:55 p.m.
NBC and its new owner Comcast won the U.S.
rights to televise the next four Olympic Games with a bid worth $4.38 billion,
continuing its lock on one of TV's most watched events.
In those future games, NBC plans to show all events live,
either on broadcast, cable, streaming or on some other platform, a change of
its strategy of hoarding some events to build a large primetime audience.
Comcast, which has been talking about financial discipline
after NBC lost $233 million on the Winter Games from Vancouver,
topped bids from Disney's ESPN and News Corp.'s Fox Sports. Comcast CEO Brian
Roberts said that by securing rights for four Olympics, the company was assured
that it could turn a profit and build value for shareholders.
The winning bid includes $775 million for the 2014 Winter
Games in Socci, Russia,
$1.226 billion for the 2016 Summer Games from Rio de
Janeiro. NBC also paid $963 million for the 2018 games
and $1.418 billion for the 2020 games, though sites for those events haven't
"We are excited to get started and continue the great legacy
and work that has been the relationship between NBC and the Olympics. We
couldn't be more proud," Roberts said during a press conference announcing the
decision by the International Olympics Committee.
"We've been clear from the beginning that we want to be
disciplined and responsible," Roberts said. "We think this will be a profitable
relationship for NBC Universal. Having eight more years, we will have an
opportunity to build up a lot of the assets at NBC Universal."
Because both the new Olympics deal and a recent agreement
with the National Hockey League were essentially renewals, "I don't think this
will change the financial profile of the company." But he conceded that "on a
human basis, I wanted to win for the team. . . we poured our heart and soul
Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, said the
deal includes rights to put Olympic events on "every platform known today" as
well any to be conceived over the life of the agreement. "It's all encompassing.
That's part of the value of our new company."
Lazarus said that that for the four games starting in 2014,
every event will be shown live on one platform or another. "We think that with
today's technological advances" NBC can create a quality experience "that is
good for the super sports fan but doesn't change our strategy for building that
shared experience," he said. "We have a smart plan that will allow the super
fan to watch life and not detract from the prime time audience" on broadcast.
He added that streaming plans for the London
games would be reexamined.
IOC President Jacques Rogge aid NBC had "great experience in
broadcasting the Olympics . . . the Olympics is in their DNA."
He added that the deal gives the Olympic movement "financial viability for the next
"Comcast and NBC showed the depth of their commitment and
their passion" in their presentation," added IOC Executive Board member Richard
Carrion, who led the negotiations. "This was a competition for which there is
only a gold medal, and they won the gold medal."
Carrion said some of the bids were for two years, others
were for four. The other bids "were very much in the ballpark," he said. But
NBC's bid for four full games "that was what put us over the line." He added that
the committed was "blown away" by the passion NBC showed for the Olympic Games.
He cited an emotional appeal by announcer Bob Costas, and added that the
presence of Roberts and NBCU CEO Steve Burke "impressed us with the depth of their
Carrion added that while there are no plans to create an
Olympic channel, it is possible under the new agreement, provided that NBC, the
IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee all come to an agreement.
Sources said that Fox made two bids. One was $1.5 billion for the games in 2014 and 2016. The other was $3.4 billion for the package of four games through 2020. ESPN's bid was $1.4 billion for the 2014 and 2016 games.
"We congratulate NBC/Comcast and would like to thank President Rogge, Richard Carrion and the IOC Executive Committee for giving us the opportunity to participate in the process, demonstrating how Fox Sports would produce the Olympic Games, provide wide distribution, the largest marketing platform ever and an economic package we believed to be good for the IOC and News Corp," said David Hill, chairman of the Fox Media Group.
"We made a disciplined bid that would have brought
tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our
company," ESPN said in a statement. "To go any further would not have
made good business sense for us. We wish to congratulate the IOC on a fair and
transparent process, and we offer our best wishes to Comcast/NBC. We put our
best foot forward with a compelling offer that included the enthusiastic
participation of all of The Walt Disney Company's considerable assets."
Executives from NBCUniversal, Walt Disney's ESPN and News
Corp.'s Fox Sports, traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland
to pitch the International Olympic Committee. NBC, which has carried the Summer
Olympic since 1988 and the winter games since 2002, is now controlled by
Comcast, which acquired a majority stake in the broadcaster in January.
Dick Ebersol, who as chairman of NBC Sports had strong
relationship with the IOC and guided the award- winning production of the event,
resigned from NBC last month after disagreements with top Comcast executive. He
was replaced by former Turner Broadcasting executive Mark Lazarus, who headed
NBCU's presentation. It was unclear how Ebersol's absence affected NBC bid,
from both a financial and a programming viewpoint.
Eight years ago, NBC bid $2.2 billion for the 2010 Vancouver
Games and the 2012 Summer Games to be held in London.
NBC outbid Fox, which offered $1.3 billion. NBC wound up losing $233 million in
the Vancouver Olympics.
In 1995, NBC bid $3.5 billion for five Olympics, getting the
games from 2000 to 2008. The offer was large enough that the IOC accepted it
without having anyone else bid.