Friday, August 22, 2014
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NBC lands Olympics TV rights through 2032 for $7.75 billion

(Richard Heathcote/Getty Images file photo)
(Richard Heathcote/Getty Images file photo)

NBC's longstanding partnership with the International Olympic Committee will extend through 2032, the two sides announced Wednesday, as NBC Universal won broadcast rights to the next six Olympic Games.

The agreement, which covers rights across all media platforms -  free-to-air television, pay-television, internet and mobile - is valued at $7.65 billion. NBC Universal will also pay an extra $100 million signing bonus to promote the Olympics for five years beginning in 2015. 

Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, spoke for NBC in an official release on the deal.

"It would be hard to overstate what an exciting day this is for me personally and for everybody at NBCUniversal," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on a conference call with reporters.

Roberts added that the enormous viewership for the 2012 Summer and 2014 Winter gave the powers-that-be at Comcast "the confidence" to extend the company's relationship with the IOC.

"We've only begun to scratch the surface" of what NBC can do, Roberts said.

Could that include bringing the Summer Olympics back to the United States for the first time since 1996?

NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus admitted that "this deal would be good for our business" but added that the deal was made "without knowledge of where the games will be... Our success with the games has never been contingent on the location."

Still, there has been a lot of discussion about the U.S. potentially hosting the Summer Games in 2024, and that will only get louder now.

United States Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst said his group "will continue to have discussions" with cities interested in bidding to host in 2024, and that the Committee will decide what the bid city will be by the end of the year.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told the Associated Press last month that three finalists for the bid will be chosen by June.

International Olympic committee president Thomas Bach told a conference call with reporters that the rights deal "ensures, and helps to ensure significantly, the financial stability and security of the Olympic movement."

He added that "we are distributing more than 90 percent of our revenues to future organizers of Olympic Games."

NBC's rights fees have long been the most significant source of revenue for the IOC. That hasn't always been said loudly, but Bach left no doubt.

One surprising aspect of today's announcement was that there was no open bidding process for the rights deal. NBC and the IOC did all their negotiations in secret. 

"We are sure that the Olympic Games will be presented in a way that the Olympic spirit requires, and how we see it," Bach said. "Then it was a question to find the right balance with the financial commitment, and from the fact that we have signed this agreement today, you can see we have found this balance... This is why we did not see any reason to take any risk."

For as much money as there is on the table, Bach said that "the deal is not only about money... Maybe you can make one or two dollars more, and end up having your product destroyed."

"We can rely on each other," he added as he discussed the strength of the IOC's partnership with NBC. "We are thinking long term at the IOC. We are here for 120 years and we want to be here for much longer, and we want to leave a good legacy to our successors."

Bach, a former fencer for Germany's Olympic team, lightheartedly apologized for keeping the negotiations "in secret" from the public. But he emphasized that the two sides "can rely on each other." 

He noted that the negotiations began in November, when he came to New York to address the United Nations. Bach said the idea to extend the partnership came from him, and Comcast said in a meeting during the Sochi Games that it was in favor of the deal.

The deal was sealed Wednesday afternoon, and announced soon thereafter.

"It was enough for us to shake hands as long term partners, but the lawyers insisted that we sign some papers," Bach quipped. "So we are following the advice of the lawyers."

By the time the new deal has run its course, NBC will have broadcast 23 Olympics, dating back to the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.

This article contains information from the Associated Press and Reuters.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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