NBC Affiliates: We Support the Bid

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NBC-affiliated broadcast-TV stations were enthused about network parent NBCUniversal’s winning bid for the next
four Olympic Games, mainly because it solidifies the company’s dedication
to broadcast TV.

NBC affiliates board chairman Brian Lawlor said the Olympics bid is a
major statement from Comcast, which purchased a controlling interest in
NBCU in January. “NBC has made a commitment to us to show marquee
events live when possible, and over the air, and [to] lead with the highestprofile events on NBC broadcast,” he said.

The $4.38 billion Olympics bid could be seen by the stations as another
olive branch from the nation’s largest cable operator that began with
Comcast’s proposal last month to jointly negotiate retransmisson-consent
deals for affiliates. While the stations will have to contribute monetarily
to help cover costs — something they were asked to do by the old
General Electric regime in the past — it is also an opportunity to boost
local advertising rates and extract higher retrans fees.

NBC will air the 2012 Summer Olympics from London as well. As
they’ve done with past Olympics, Lawlor said NBC affiliates will help
foot the bill. “The infrastructure exists to help pay for the games, as we
have in the past,” he said. “That will continue.”

Just how much that will be has not been determined. But even a slight
increase in fees, including cable-network license fees, could help soften
the blow.

Wunderlich Securities media analyst Matt Harrigan said a relatively
small surcharge — say an extra 5 cents per subscriber per month for
the NBC stations and cable networks like Versus, which are expected to
carry the games, could amount to as much as $120 million.

“That’s real money,” Harrigan said.

NBC will tackle the games without production mastermind Dick
Ebersol, who resigned last month. Lawlor said NBC Sports Group
chairman Mark Lazarus is a seasoned sports producer with sterling
relationships, and that the commitment of NBC Sports and Comcast
to producing top-flight Olympic productions geared toward giant audiences
has not wavered.

“I always thought NBC did a great job with the Olympics, making
it great family entertainment that’s enjoyed by so many,” Lawlor said.
“We’re thrilled to be able to continue with that.”

Michael Malone is deputy editor of Broadcasting & Cable. Mike Farrell
contributed to this report.