NBC Cashes-In on Olympics Investment

26 August 2008

NEW YORK: NBC Universal's $894 million (€604.05m; £482.01m) gamble on the exclusive TV rights for the Beijing Olympic Games has paid off handsomely, claims ceo Jeff Zucker (pictured) – while denying that NBCU creamed up to $100m in profits on the deal.

"Obviously we'll make a profit here,” he conceded, noting that the company had sold an additional $25m of Olympic advertising on the back of larger than expected audiences. But guesstimates of $100m he dismissed as way too high.

Moreover, NBCU's success appears to have scotched ongoing rumours that parent General Electric is reviewing its ownership of the broadcast giant. These persisted despite a statement last month by GE's ceo Jeff Immelt that the conglomerate regarded NBCU as one of its four core assets.

With justifiable testiness Zucker responded: "I don't know how Jeff Immelt can be any clearer on this. [Talk of a sale] is just silly speculation and has no basis in truth. Hopefully this will lay that silly speculation to rest." 

Then, a Zucklerian paean: "I think there's a better feeling about NBC than we have seen for years. We have advertisers who were delivered far more ratings points than they imagined or than we promised, and morale in the company is very high."

Audiences for NBCU's nightly Olympics news programme were up 31% compared to those for the Athens Games four years ago. And over the Beijing event's first fifteen days 209m viewers watched a record 3,600 hours of coverage across seven NBCU channels.

So is network TV a declining medium as its axe-grinding critics claim?

Zucker lifted two Churchill-style fingers to that question: "What this proves is that the pipes still work. If you put on programming that's compelling enough for the audience they'll show up."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff