Thursday, January 21, 2010

Olympics Especially Important for NBC

With the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver just three weeks away -- opening ceremonies kick things off Friday, Feb. 12 -- their importance to NBC-TV seems to grow every day.

So far, the most positive view of the Games (not suprisingly) has come from the network promos. At the same time those well-produced segments have increased in frequency, network officials have confirmed NBC would lose money on the 17 days it plans to cover the Games.

Some reports put that loss at as much as $200 million, and NBC officials subsequently believe those reports of losses have hurt their potential for last-minute ad sales.

While all that plays out, NBC has an ugly public divorce from Conan O'Brien on its hands and an even more pressing date -- a Feb. 4 appointment for network officials in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Comcast's pending purchase of NBC Universal.

O'Brien, ousted as host of "The Tonight Show" because of Jay Leno's failing ratings at 10 p.m., makes his last appearance Friday on the Peacock Network. He'll get more than $30 million (plus $7 million for his staff) to sit out a non-compete clause until Sept. 1, 2010, and then likely return to TV in the 11:30 p.m. timeslot for a competing network. Meanwhile, Leno will return to "The Tonight Show."

All of the changes have been a messy public problem for the network, which already has across-the-board ratings challenges.

In old TV models, a network with the Olympic Games (even if they were a loss leader) would parlay the exposure into a strong way to promote its regular programming. It worked that way for NBC in the 1990s. And sports, especially the Games, took also-ran ABC, a third-place network, to the dominant network of broadcast TV in the 1970s. At this point, NBC can only hope that happens in some small form this time.

With 835 hours of programming planned across all its platforms -- NBC-TV, cable and online -- NBC certainly gets a great opportunity for exposure.

Ironically, though, with the Comcast deal, NBC could cease to exist as it's been known for decades not long after the Games.

All of that clearly makes the Games important.

1 comment:

  1. I am really looking forward to the Winter Olympics.  Go Apolo!