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NBC Announces Jim Bell’s Return to Sports

NBC has officially announced that Jim Bell is leaving as EP of the “Today” show and will return to NBC Sports as executive producer of NBCU’s coverage of the Olympics. Bell, who reports to NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, will have editorial and creative control over NBC’s Games and rejoins the NBC Olympics Unit, led by Gary Zenkel, President of NBC Olympics.

“The Olympics is one of the signature franchises in television, and for more than two decades they’ve been a huge part of my life,” said Bell. “The London Olympics was especially exciting for me, and I look forward to continuing through future Games working with so many good friends and colleagues.”

The announcement about a new executive in charge of “Today,” likely NBC News SVP Alex Wallace, could come as early as tomorrow.

NBC’s press release after the jump…

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‘Today’ Wins Week Two of London Games, While Minding the Gap

For the second week of the London Summer games, NBC’s “Today” show averaged just shy of 6 million viewers, on par with week one but down from the 6.2 million the show drew for the second week of the Beijing games. According to Nielsen Fast National data, “Today” was watched by 1.6 million more viewers than ABC’s “Good Morning America.” During the Beijing games, that gap stood at 2.4 million viewers.

Final numbers will be released Thursday.

And before the they left London, the “Today” team said goodbye to three longtime staffers. Bucky Gunts, who was a longtime director for the show, and who more recently has been working with NBC Olympics, signed off after last night’s Closing Ceremony. Gunts, who won a primetime Emmy for his direction of the Vancouver Opening Ceremony in 2010, has been with NBC for 30 years. Also, Jack Bennett, “Today’s” director of operations and Sue Stogel, who’s been with the show 27 years, made the London Summer Games their final tour of duty.

Editing a Story about a British Pub, In a British Pub

ABC’s Bill Weir continues his reports from the London Summer games, where he’s been reporting for “Good Morning America” straight through to “Nightline.”

And if you watch tonight’s “Nightline” you’ll see a story on the perfect British pub, featuring “Nightline” contributor and former U.S. Women’s Soccer captain Julie Foudy. But rather than sit in a stuffy bureau to edit the piece, producer Jake Whitman decided the best place to edit a story about a British pub, was in one.

Where Do Anchors Abroad Go When They Have Some Free Time?

Working at a major event abroad like the Olympics may seem like fun, but as “Today” news anchor Natalie Morales told me, it can be kind of a pain sometimes to keep up.

“Even though you know what it is going on and you know who is winning, I haven’t been able to catch it on TV like I would at home, and I think a lot of people might be surprised by that,” Morales says.

As long as you are there, however, you may as well maximize your free time to see some of the history actually happening.

“I was there when Missy Franklin won her first Olympic gold, I was there when [Michael] Phelps won one of his golds, and I am going [Tuesday] night to beach volleyball,” “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer told me.

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London 2012: Producing ‘Today’ From Afar

Between the basketball arena and the athletes village, in the northeastern section of the Olympic Park in London, NBC has set up what seems like a small village with one purpose: to broadcast “Today” live from the Olympic games.

There is a control room, a green room and production offices in makeshift buildings–completely separate from NBC’s enormous complex in the International Broadcast Centre a 20 minute walk away–and at the center of it all a large set that the network has used at every Olympics going back to Athens in 2004 (with the exception of Vancouver 2010).

Hundreds of people crowd around the barriers to get a glimpse of the athletes, anchors and guests. The crowd seems to be mostly Americans, although a few savvy Brits told me they heard it was a good place to see some of the more popular competitors, as well as celebrities like chef Jamie Oliver.

“Few things in life actually exceed your expectations, and this really has,” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie told me. “The energy is infectious, the enthusiasm, every athlete that comes on has this inspiring story to tell, it is hard not go get caught up in it.”

On this day, however, the show started on a somber note. “Today” began with a follow-up on the tragic shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. As the show opened, Guthrie and Matt Lauer sat at the anchor desk, with the set itself separated from the crowd by thick glass, which blocked out almost all the noise from outside. Later on, after the serious coverage at the top of the show, the crew quickly slid the glass partition away, opening up the set to the plaza outside.

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London 2012: Unaccredited Broadcasters Forced To Get Creative In Olympic Coverage

The official Olympics broadcasting partners pay millions (and in NBC’s case billions) of dollars for the rights to televise the games. That exclusivity has its perks. Clips from the games may only be used in extremely specific circumstances by other networks, and none of them can broadcast from inside any Olympic venue.

As we noted last month the unaccredited networks can get creative in how they cover the games. A perfect example: how exactly do they get such great views of the Olympic stadium in their shots (see CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewing swimmer Missy Franklin, above right), if they can’t get into the complex?

The solution: take over a local’s apartment.

Yes, many of the unaccredited broadcasters, including CNN, took advantage of some of the old apartment complexes that overlook what is now Olympic Park. In the picture below, taken near the aquatics venue inside the Park, you can see a bright light in the upper right of the building. That is a broadcaster not lucky enough to get Olympics rights, but with enough wherewithal to get a decent view of the action.

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Tearful Lolo Jones on New York Times: ‘It Was Just Heartbreaking. I Don’t Think I Should Be Ripped Apart by Media’

Lolo Jones, who finished fourth in the finals of the 100M hurdles Tuesday, went on “Today” this morning and, fighting back tears, said a Saturday New York Times story that compared her to Anna Kournikova, the former tennis pro known more for her good looks than her play on the court, didn’t help her performance. Jones tells Savannah Guthrie, “I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media. They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds.”

Earlier on TVNewser: FBN’s Sandra Smith Cheers on “Running Mate” Lolo Jones

Tom Brokaw Hosts Special On WWII Britain During Saturday Olympics Coverage

“Their Finest Hour,” a Tom Brokaw documentary in honor of host country Great Britain, will premiere on Saturday during NBC’s daytime coverage of the London Olympics which starts at 10amET/PT.

> Update: NBC’s now says “Their Finest Hour” will air during NBC’s primetime at 8pmET/PT.

“Their Finest Hour,” which was shot across Britain over the course of two years, explores the years leading up to America’s entry into World War II. In 1940 and 1941 Britain stood firm against Nazi terror. And, as historian Anthony Beevor recalls in the documentary, Hitler would have ruled all of Europe, and there would have been very little the United States could have done about it.

The documentary includes recently discovered color film footage of the period. Airing the day before the Closing Ceremony, NBC says “Their Finest Hour” is a tribute to England as the host of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

‘Today’ Enjoys Bounce Back During London Games

With 6.35 million viewers, Monday’s “Today” show was its second-best outing since May 2011. (Its best came last Friday with 6.45 million). “Today” drew +1.92 million more viewers than “Good Morning America,” according to Nielsen Fast National data. Compared to the second Monday in Beijing, Aug., 18, 2008, “Today” was up +12% in total viewers. Today’s show featured Matt Lauer‘s interview with Michael Phelps, the most-decorated Olympian ever.

Last week, the first week of the games, “Today” was on par with its numbers from the first week in Beijing. “Today” averaged 6.50 million total viewers for the week of July 30, 2012 vs. 6.52 million for the week of Aug. 11, 2008.

The week before the games — July 23 — “Good Morning America” won in both total viewers and A25-54 viewers for the first time in nearly 17 years.

FBN’s Sandra Smith Ready to Cheer on ‘Running Mate’ Lolo Jones

Today she turns 30, and tomorrow Lolo Jones begins her quest for gold in the 100m Hurdles at the London games. Jones was the favorite in the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but came in 7th after clipping the 9th hurdle.

Earlier in her career, Jones was a standout at LSU winning three NCAA titles. One of her LSU teammates was Fox Business Network correspondent Sandra Smith, who will be cheering her on.

In our Media Beat interview earlier this year, Smith talked about being a student-athlete at LSU and how it prepared her for the real world. “It challenges you, it makes you smarter, it makes you more aggressive.”