Cash, Cramming and Ann Curry During NBC London Olympics Press Conference

By Alex Weprin Comment

We are 30 days from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and in a press conference held in the “Saturday Night Live” studio in New York, and on a conference call with reporters today, network executives and Olympics primetime host Bob Costas explained what they have planned for games.

“If you work in television, particularly in sports television, this is really the pinnacle and this is really the time everyone starts feeling the butterflies and starts getting amped up for the challenge ahead,” said Jim Bell, the EP of the London Olympics, as well as NBC’s “Today.”

Some statistics from NBCU: There will be 5,536 hours of live coverage across nine TV channels and online via authenticated streaming. NBCU has 75,000 square feet of space in the International Broadcast Centre in London, and will have 3,000 staffers to cover the games, produce “Today” and “Nightly News,” etc. Around 200 million Americans are expected to tune in to part of the games over 17 days, which underscores just how big a deal the games are for NBCU owner Comcast. Comcast spent $30 billion to secure the U.S. TV rights to the Olympic games through 2020.

That massive deal means that, at least for the upcoming games, the Olympics will be a loss leader.

“We are not predicting that we will necessarily be profitable, but we do know that from the time the Comcast NBC merger took place, the financial position of these games will be significantly enhanced from that original plan,” said NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel. “On a long-term basis, we are confident that the deal we made for these four games will be a profitable deal for us when the scores come in.”

In addition to the previously announced contributors, NBC is adding late night host Jimmy Fallon and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White to its roster. Their job is to add color, appear in segments and make Costas’ job easier. Costas said that there was one event that sticks out as a tough nut to crack in terms of coverage, however.

“The single biggest challenge if you go day by day or night by night is the Opening Ceremony, especially at a Summer games with more than 10,000 athletes and more than 200 nations,” Costas said, quipping “If anybody has a formula for the exact right way to cover an opening ceremony, contact me immediately.”

Costas added that he hopes to have “at least one worthwhile nugget” of information for every country that walks in the ceremony.

Then there was the elephant in the room: NBC’s “Today,” which has been the subject of much speculation over the last few weeks. “Today” will be live from London, as it is every Olympics, and Meredith Vieira will be a big part of it, including serving as Costas’ co-anchor during the Opening Ceremonies. The role of Ann Curry is less clear.

Bell, when asked about the Curry situation, as well as juggling both the Olympics and “Today,” dodged the question:

“I think the answer is the same, I have been dealing with both jobs for the last year, it has been fantastic, they are both great brands, they have both had ups and downs over the years, and as far as anything on ‘Today,’ that isn’t what the call is about today, but we are looking forward to London, on both counts,” he said.

At the live press conference inside 30 Rock, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke was more forthcoming, according to an attendee. Burke told the press that he hopes the Olympics will “revitalize the ‘Today’ show.”

In what way exactly remains to be seen.