Dick Ebersol, executive producer of the Olympics for NBC Universal, said Sunday he hoped the Olympics TV network that the U.S. Olympic Committee had been planning with NBCU's owner-to-be Comcast would remain on hold. Ebersol also expects NBCU to weigh its bid for the 2014-16 Olympics without Comcast's hand.
Comcast, of course, has a yet-to-be-approved deal to take a controlling interest in NBCU. "We know they have big appetite for sports," Ebersol said of Comcast. But when asked about the Olympics channel, which would compete directly with NBCU's Universal Sports channel, he said: "My hope now is the USOC will continue to hold off on that."
The USOC-Comcast channel was put on hold in August.
Ebersol also said he expected NBCU to bid for the 2014-16 Olympics without the input of Comcast due to timing. "The IOC will want to have bids to the rights to the 2014 and 16 Olympics some time this summer, so it will be up to NBC and [parent] GE to weigh what they're going to do with that [bid]," Ebersol said during an appearance via satellite at NBCU's TCA press tour. He noted that the Comcast deal is expected to take between a year and a year-and-a-half to achieve approval from Washington.
Ebersol also weighed in on how he expects the Winter Olympics from Vancouver on NBC to fare against TV's other winter juggernaut, Fox's American Idol. He expects this year's Olympics to do better than the Torino games because of the amount of live coverage of big-draw events like skating. On at least two nights of head-to-head Olympics vs Idol competition, NBC will be live with skating.
"Will we beat em? I don't know, that's the no. 1 show on TV," he said. "But I do think we'll do much better against Idol those two nights because we're live."