Greetings and Salutations, dear reader (hah! two pop culture references in the first five words…I’m nice. 5 points if you can tell me where they’re from).
Anyway so sorry for the prolonged hiatus from Good Times and Gold Medals. I got caught up in the not-so-little business of graduating from college and figuring out the future, but it’s done! Undergrad is a wrap, and the future is looking bright, so with persistent kicking from two of my good friends, I once again delve into the world of sporting excellence and entertainment that is the Olympic Games. Well actually, I never really leave that world, but you do, so I’m here to drag you back.
This week on As the Torch Burns, the dust is only beginning to settle from the battle for broadcasting rights for 2014 and 2016. Ever since the January shakeup at NBC, the question of whether the network’s dominance could finally be challenged by a more confident ESPN or Fox Sports has been on everyone’s mind. New owner Comcast seemed much less gung-ho about committing to the Games than the guys at General Electric, especially in light of the $223 million lost at the Vancouver Games. Still it seemed promising that Comcast would use the Games as a way to validate their new leadership and maintain NBC’s close relationship with the IOC.
Plot Twist!! Less than one month before he was to lead the NBC delegation to Switzerland to do battle royal for the 2014/2016 rights, Dick Ebersol, the architect of NBC’s Olympic dominance since 1995, resigned from the Sports Division. Unable to reach a compromise with Comcast about his four-year contract, Ebersol chose to pack up and leave his 22-year career at NBC Sports.
Comcast took a moment to recognize Ebersol and the ending of an era, but kept it moving by appointing former head of Turner Entertainment Group Mark Lazarus as the new lead. Bringing in an outsider…interesting.
Continuing on, bidding began this past Monday at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland (home of the IOC and the International Olympic Museum). The NYTimes claimed that the feel surrounding the meeting was one of “Lowering the Bar”. For the first time since the mid-1990s, ESPN and Fox stood a good chance to beat NBC, and it seemed as though all three delegations were calculating the least amount it needed to bid rather than the usual rallying of resources to deliver a KO.
Presentations were made Monday and Tuesday, followed by sealed bids and deliberation. The NYTimes reports, “Fox dropped in four envelopes, ESPN put in two and NBC dropped in a thin envelope and a noticeably thicker one.” Pins and needles, folks, pins and needles.
And the winner……Comcast NBC!!!
End of an era, my foot! Comcast NBC bid a KOoooo $4.38 billion for the US rights to the next FOUR Olympics. That’s right, 2014 Sochi, 2016 Rio, and two Games that we don’t even know the location of yet. For the record, Fox bid $3.4 billion for the next four Games, and ESPN $1.4 billion for Sochi and Rio only. The IOC breathed a huge sigh of relief at this sign of NBC’s continued commitment, with member Richard Carrion releasing the statement, “We were blown away by the NBC presentation and the passion the team has for the Olympics…I’d be less than honest if I said the dollars didn’t come into play.”
Here’s to another decade of Matt Lauer and Al Roker and their heroic (and hilarious) efforts to become Olympic athletes within a 3-minute news spot. Cheers!