The upcoming bidding war for TV rights to the Olympics is putting a strain on the relationship between NBC Universal’s Olympics chief Dick Ebersol and tight-fisted Comcast executives, sources told the New York Post.
Executives are wondering if Ebersol—who has been in charge of all Olympics programming efforts since 2000, and every Summer Games broadcast since 1988—will be able to convince Comcast to shell out the big bucks for the 2014 and 2016 games. NBC outbid the competition for rights to the last round of Olympics broadcasting, but General Electric (then the majority owner of NBC) CEO Jeff Immelt admitted that they lost money on the games, and the Comcast brass might be unwilling to take that risk.
There is also debate over when the events should be aired. This month, the International Olympic Committee's Richard Carrion told the press, "We think value continues to go toward events that are live and events that have the drawing power that this event does," but Ebersol has preferred to air major events during prime time to maximize ad revenue. "Dick is pushing back on Comcast's vision versus his own traditional experience,” said an NBCU insider. “He saved everything for prime time and that met with opposition from some viewers."
Executives from each of the competing networks are expected to detail their plans for broadcasting the 2014 and 2016 games, and will also be given a chance to bid on a package of four games. The winner will be announced in the second half of June. According to the Post, if Ebersol doesn’t score the rights for NBCU, some believe that he will retire.