The International Olympic Committee didn’t take competitive bids the way it did in 2011 — when Fox and ESPN joined the fray — before accepting Comcast’s $7.65B offer to carry the games in the U.S. through 2032. But the $1.4B increase in the outlay by the owner of NBCUniversal “is not small” for the IOC its president, Thomas Bach, said today in a conference call. NBC has handled 23 Olympics beginning with the Tokyo games in 1964 and the IOC “wanted to build on this long term partnership with NBC so we could be sure, and we are sure, that the Olympic games will be presented in a way the Olympic spirit requires.” He vowed that more than 90% of the revenue will go to organizers of future Olympics, giving planners financial security.
Comcast chief Brian Roberts says he felt comfortable making the offer, even though he doesn’t know where the future games will be held, after his company recorded a profit from London and Sochi. Plans to combine the cable company’s “technology leadership and X1 platform” with NBC’s storytelling expertise mean “we’ve only begun to scratch the surface,” Roberts says.
Th execs began their private talks to extend their partnership at a private dinner in NYC in November, and continued the conversation at Sochi. Bach says he was so eager to work with a trusted collaborator that he was satisfied with a handshake, although “the lawyers insisted that we even sign some papers.” Execs offered few additional details about the terms, including whether NBCU’s Telemundo might air the games in Spanish.
While Roberts says he’s confident that his bet will pay off, NBC’s success with the Sochi games wasn’t a given — especially as the U.S. came in fourth in the number of gold medals, and was No. 2 in total medals. The 2014 Sochi Games were the lowest-rated primetime Olympics ever among 18-49 year olds. The Walking Dead beat the Olympics three Sundays in a row for NBC’s target audience. From the start to the Closing Ceremony, the 17 total days of Winter Games drew a 5.5 rating in the key demo with 21.4M viewers on average. If you take away the pre-Opening Ceremony bonus day – an Olympics first — the demo rating stayed the same for NBC, but the average audience dipped a bit to 21.3M. Full days to full days, and apples-to-apples, that’s down 16% from Vancouver’s 6.6 rating and almost 10% from the previous low of Torino’s 6.1. In terms of viewers, Sochi was behind the 24.4M who watched the Vancouver Games but a nose ahead of the 20.2M million who tuned for the Torino Games.