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Will NBC Retain the Olympic Games?

Bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic rights begins next year and Mediapost’s David Goetzl takes a look at whether new NBC owner Comcast will place a high priority on keeping the Games on the Peacock.

His conclusion? Absolutely.

Comcast will spend whatever it takes to keep the Olympics on NBC when bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Games kicks off next year. ESPN may force it to pay more, but Comcast will top ESPN’s bid on every round as the International Olympic Committee considers each side’s latest offers.

Part of the Comcast takeover deal was that the new owners wouldn’t alter the network’s big-time sports efforts. In short, new NBCU CEO Steve Burke can’t afford to lose the Games, even if they might lose money. (A consulting firm predicts the 2014 Games will break even, while the 2012 ones will lose $100M.)

Goetzl mentions that ESPN will eventually stop bidding because “the consistently top-rated Olympic events appeal to women, a group not in the ESPN wheelhouse.” But wait, didn’t the Worldwide Leader just launch a site for women?Why, yes they did indeed. What’s more is that it’s designed with the Olympics in mind. Well, at least sort of.

Even when espnW executives did present a more sports-related vision for the site, explaining that they sought the type of storytelling that is a staple of Olympics coverage, it called to mind the troubling fact that the multi-medal performance of two of Vancouver’s top female athletes, skiers Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, was widely covered as a catfight.

Even so, however, it’s hard to see ESPN spending billions and billions of dollars on properties that don’t really fit their mission. Then again, there is a lot of money floating around Bristol, CT.

(Disclosure: We worked as a researcher for NBC’s Olympic broadcast during the 2008 Games.)

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