Comcast's Next Possible Olympic-Sized Hurdle With NBC

Two years from now, Comcast could get the benefit of the Summer Olympic games -- should it complete its joint venture with General Electric for NBC Universal.

That'll come with the London games. What hasn't been decided is whether Comcast will get the advantage of the Olympic events in 2014 (Winter Games in Sochi, Russia) and 2016, which was given to Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

For NBC Sports may not continue its long-time legacy in airing the events, since the likes of Walt Disney's ESPN will probably make a big play for the games. If competitors are successful in their Olympic bids, NBC and its fledging cable/local multicast network, Universal Sports, as well as Comcast's own Versus, would be left in the cold.

Though NBC's last summer event, the 2008 Beijing Games, proved a wild success in terms of ratings, it didn't follow to the same degree financially. At first NBC said it actually lost money; then it said the profit was a very modest 3%/ Again, this was with some of the best ratings in some time for the Summer Olympics.  All of which has us wondering, how much would NBC's new potential controlling owners want to pony up the next time around for the games?



The good news is that big TV events can be a hit. So far, though, monetizing big sports events hasn't always worked out -- CBS with its March Madness NCAA Tournament being an exception.

Though NBC distributed the most Olympic programming ever -- on network TV, cable TV, the Internet, and mobile -- some advertising support didn't materialize. This was especially true with those events airing on its Web sites.

The winds are already changing when it comes to monetizing premium Internet video, with a trend toward more consumer-fee based efforts and less ad-supported only businesses. Would Comcast/NBC start charging for content on,,,, or Comcast On Demand service?

If the deal goes ahead, Comcast will be knee-deep in the added expense of operating a big media/TV/film company with NBC Universal in the coming years -- if not even more costs, with the prospect of owning  more of NBC Universal in the coming years. 

For the 1996 Summer Games, and all Olympic Games from 2000 to 2008, NBC paid a total of $3.5 billion. For the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics, NBC paid another $2.2 billion. How will the big operator stomach spending more lavishly on future Olympics?

Whatever U.S. network gets the TV rights to the 2014 and 2016 games has already suffered a blow. U.S.-based Summer Olympic events always show up with generally better ratings among TV viewers. But 2016 Summer Olympics contender Chicago didn't even place -- coming in fourth after Rio, Madrid, and Tokyo.

Not even done with its proposed NBC transaction, Comcast already has more work cut out for it.



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