Burke: Olympics Could Break Even

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With ratings and ad sales higher than expected so far, NBCUniversal says it will be close to breaking even on the London Olympic Games.

Speaking on Comcast's earnings call with analysts from London, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said that early internal estimates were that NBCU could lose about $200 million on the London Olympics. But at the start of the Games, Burke said that ad sales were more than $100 million ahead of goals and that ratings are 30% higher than the company had estimated.

Burke said that NBCU believed that the 2008 Beijing Games represented a "high water mark" for Olympic ratings and modeled its ratings projections on the 2004 Athens Games, when fewer events were broadcast live. So far, ratings are up 26% from Athens and up 30% from estimates. They're also up 9% from Beijing, vs. internal forecasts that ratings would be down 20%.

Burke said the high ratings the Olympics were drawing were "atypical" in the current fragmented media environment, making them increasingly valuable. He said the strong ratings were a result of the company's promotion and its strategy of presenting the Games on broadcast, cable and digital.

Burke said the results so far made Comcast and NBCU investments in buying future Olympic rights look like better-than-expected bets.

He also said that NBCU was counting on the strong Olympics to help NBC launch its primetime schedule, boost its news operations and help spotlight the NBC Sports Network.

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