NBC Grabs Olympic Gold

No Ebersol, no problem: Lazarus delegation nabs rights through 2020

The International Olympic Committee has awarded the media rights to the 2014-2020 Olympic Games to NBC.

Early reports from Lausanne, Switzerland, peg NBC's bid at $4 billion, which would make this the most expensive TV rights deal in Olympic broadcast history.

While many observers predicted that Comcast-NBC Universal would come up short in Lausanne, the Peacock on Tuesday outflanked rivals ESPN and Fox for the blockbuster four-event package.

News of the winning bid began flooding Twitter at approximately 12:45 p.m. EDT. The Associated Press was the first media outlet to announce the deal.

The bid is believed to have been secured by new NBC Sports/Olympics chairman Mark Lazarus, who was supported by as many as 16 Comcast-NBCU higher-ups, including Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts and GE president of Olympics Sponsorship, Peter Foss.

Fox had also submitted a bid for the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 games, but NBC either put up more cash for the rights to broadcast the events or it presented a more compelling narrative.

The news comes just three weeks after longtime NBC Olympics steward Dick Ebersol took leave of the network. While Ebersol was famously chummy with the Olympics’ governing body, IOC officials were apparently able to look past his glaring absence.

Since 1992, Ebersol had won the rights to 10 Olympic Games. He was also responsible for producing NBC’s coverage.

In the months since Comcast closed the deal to acquire a majority stake in NBCU, officials have said that the company would be a model of financial restraint. This alone led many to believe that NBC would lowball the bid. After all, NBC lost $223 million on its coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and is expected to lose as much, if not more, on the 2012 London summer games.

Moments after the first tweets began to issue from Lausanne, many of the representative ESPN and Fox feeds suddenly went silent.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, ESPN thanked the IOC for what it called “a fair and transparent process.” ESPN went on to say that it had made “a disciplined bid that would have brought tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our company, [but] to go any further would not have made good business sense for us.”

ESPN went on to congratulate Comcast/NBC for its winning bid. 

Fox Sports chairman David Hill offered similar sentiments. “We would like to thank president [Jacques] Rogge, Richard Carrion [chairman of the IOC finance commission], and the IOC executive committee for giving us the opportunity to participate in the process,” Hill said.

Hill noted that Fox had offered an “economic package we believed to be good for the IOC and News Corp.”

The IOC will hold a press conference to officially announce its decision at 8 p.m. Swiss time, or 2 p.m. EDT.

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