When NBC -- with sports rights fees soaring -- secured multiyear rights to the Winter and Summer Olympics some time ago, who would have predicted the network would now be making money? But, as with “Sunday Night Football,” NBC placed its sports bet on the right play.
The Olympics have continued to score well, even against Fox’s “American Idol.” Ratings for the 13-year-old “Idol” have been declining for some time, but that wasn’t always the case. During the 2006 Winter Olympics, “Idol” easily outdrew the NBC’s prime-time viewership. Then, in 2010, “Idol” slipped behind the Games.
Against the Olympics this year, “Idol” dipped to its lowest levels in over a decade. But it still had the highest ratings of any show against the Games.
NBC has touted better results for Sochi in comparison with the last European-based Winter Games – 20006, in Torino, Italy. That’s because of similar time delays and lack of live programming. But the ratings were generally down versus the 2010 Vancouver Games.
In profitability, however, while other recent Olympics on NBC lost money or struggled to get into the black, the Sochi games came out ahead.
“We’ll be profitable, comfortably,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said during a dinner NBC hosted for Olympic advertisers last year. Though sports rights fees continue to rise, Lazarus said there is an ever-strong market when it comes to sponsors looking to get on board.
Why? Sports programming, for the most part, doesn’t get time-shifted. Lazarus also said the Olympics have major factors in their favor: high ratings, as well as “family viewing” content. In today’s TV market, both of those attributes are tough to come by.