In a luxury hotel in Switzerland, the future of the Olympic television rights are being hotly contested and it's quite an intriguing story. For the media pundits who are covering this relentlessly, you probably should get your fix of breaking news elsewhere. This is more of a summary of what's unfolding and what to keep an eye on as it looks like we'll know the fate of the next two and possibly four Olympics in the coming days.
In town are representatives from Fox/FX, ESPN/ABC, and NBC/Comcast. CBS and Turner considered making a joint bid similar to their March Madness tag team action, but opted to stay on the sidelines. Television rights for the Olympics have not been up for bid for over 8 years, when NBC renewed their partnership with the IOC.
Back then, Dick Ebersol, the recently departed head of NBC Sports pushed all in with a bid of $2.2 billion. He wanted to keep the Olympics badly and thought that was the magic number to get the job done. Unfortunately, it ended up being a horrible deal for NBC.
The bid was $900 million over Fox's bid of $1.3 billion and ESPN didn't even offer up a guarantee, but instead a revenue share -- viewed somewhat as a half assed offer, but probably respectable for a cable network still building their media empire. The move ended up costing NBC hundreds of millions of dollars.
"He overbid dramatically, with the backing of NBC’s parent at the time, General Electric, and the recession hurt advertising. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games lost $223 million, astonishing for a 17-day event. Next year’s London Summer Games, which cost a record Olympic rights fee of $1.18 billion, are expected to lose at least as much, and Comcast, NBC Universal’s new owner, will have to absorb it.
Ebersol will not get a chance to redeem himself or lead NBC back to Lausanne on June 6 to the negotiation for the 2014 and ’16 Olympics. He resigned on Thursday, losing a power play with Stephen B. Burke, his boss since earlier this year when Comcast took control of NBC Universal."
Many believed Ebersol would come back strong and win the rights again, but this time at a deal that would be beneficial for NBC/Comcast and see him step away after the 2012 Olympics, passing the torch to someone else while ensuring the strong legacy and relationship between NBC and the Olympics.
Comcast, the new majority owner of NBC and known as a much more profit driven company, was vocal that they wouldn't overbid this time. It seemed to some that NBC might lose their staple property. Then Ebersol abruptly resigned and his number one lieutenant followed suit.
Ebersol built a strong relationship with the IOC and was consistent in showcasing the Olympics in a positive manner. Many of the Olympic-focused personnel at NBC were reported to be crying the day of Ebersol's announcement, a potential clue into their insight as to what would unfold with the Olympic bidding.
Ever since Ebersol's departure, it's been quite the topic among media analysts and sports fans as it's hard to really peg anyone as a favorite for the Olympic rights. You can even bet on who will win the bidding on bodog where Comcast/NBC has recently been moved to the underdog position.