Now, clearly these games were not without their criticism for NBC -- beginning with the untimely and tragic death of an athlete prior to the opening ceremonies and NBC's subsequent decision to air the footage. Add in the heat that NBC took for tape delays and the decision to air the USA vs. Canada hockey game on MSNBC (much to the chagrin of Gary Bettman and hockey fans everywhere).
But all in all, I think you would argue that these games have been a success and something that NBC desperately needed. So, with Vancouver now a fond memory, there are some questions facing the media world this morning.
First, does NBC really stand to lose $200 million? A casual observer will duly note that NBC did not have trouble selling ad inventory. But, if you look at what the network paid for the rights fees, perhaps, it's quite possible that they are behind their own revenue targets. Another scenario is that Dick Ebersol is posturing about what the network is going to be willing to bid for the media rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games. (The 2012 summer games in London already are locked up on NBC.)
One might even make the case that the Olympics needs NBC more than any other media option at this point. We know that the IOC hosted top executives from ESPN and Turner Broadcasting during these Games, but is the ABC/ESPN network big enough, i.e., do they have enough channels? Clearly, the U.S. rights side is now a cable dominated landscape. Throw in NBC's pending merger with Comcast and I think they remain, and continue to be, the front runner as the home of the Olympics for the foreseeable future.
The second question now on media radar is how much of a momentum booster these games will be for NBC. If you go back in time two weeks, NBC was getting nailed for the "Tonight Show" fiasco. Now, is anyone still talking about it? Conan who?
So, where does NBC go from here? Rating's are up 17% from the last Winter Games in Turin. As a consequence, ratings are also up for other NBC programming, e.g., the "Today Show." These successes should also garner interest into future NBC broadcasts of skiing, snowboarding, and yes, even the upcoming NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Gary Bettman breathes a sigh of relief that he won't have to compete with ice dancing again.)
Will the healing process continue for NBC? Ultimately, that remains to be seen. All of the momentum in the world won't matter unless you have the programming to back it up. If you've tuned into these games over these past weeks, chances are you've seen ads for "The Marriage Ref," "Parenthood," or "Minute to Win It." NBC is definitely hitching its wagon to these shows.
It's been nearly 12 years since "Seinfeld" left the air. Will his return bring back "must-see TV"? NBC hopes you tune in Thursday to find out.