“We are way ahead of where we thought we would be,” NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke told analysts this morning in a call to discuss Comcast earnings. London will break even and “given the trends, we stand to make money on future Olympics….All of the numbers are significantly better than we projected in our deal” to buy NBCU, he says. When Comcast was contemplating its acquisition of NBCU it saw that “every 2 years NBCU was losing a lot of money on the Olympics.” It also considered the strong results from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to be uncharacteristic due to the excitement over swimmer Michael Phelps’ success. For London “we budgeted closer to (the 2004 Summer Olympics in) Athens than to Beijing” with a possible loss of $200M. But instead of seeing the first five days’ ratings down 20% vs Beijing the numbers from London are running 9% ahead. “Really, a ratings success pretty much across the board,” Burke says. In addition “for the first time we have a strategy that embraces broadcast, digital, and cable.” The company’s efforts to showcase its news properties and NBC Sports Channel mean “it’s clearly something that’s going to benefit our company very broadly….Long term we’re delighted to have the asset.”
The 3D broadcasts will come a day after the events, and won’t include everything. Still, this is the first time the the Olympics will be available here in 3D. NBC will offer more than 200 hours of 3D broadcasts to every pay TV service. It will be produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services and include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, gymnastics, diving and swimming. The announcement at the 2012 International CES follows last year’s vow by Panasonic, an official Olympic partner, to make the games in London the first in 3D. Panasonic also will be the only company advertising flat-panel HDTV sets and Blu-ray players on NBC’s Olympic broadcasts. “NBC has a history of utilizing technological innovations to distribute the Olympics in new ways for viewers,” says NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel. “We are proud to continue that tradition by partnering with Panasonic and Olympic Broadcasting Services to distribute the first 3D broadcast of the Games in the U.S. in partnership with our multichannel video programming distributors.”
Comcast CFO Mike Angelakis says that The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was so successful for Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure that it became “a reset mechanism” for the theme park. But he stopped short of confirming reports that the company plans to bring Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood, even as he gave analysts attending the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference every reason to believe that they’re accurate. Indeed, he seemed determined to avoid making news, sticking instead to Comcast’s familiar talking points: He acknowledged that there are “challenges” at NBC but says it’s also ”an opportunty for us,” adding that Comcast is “investing where we can have a level of success.” He vowed to be ”disciplined” in bidding for sports programming, calling Comcast’s agreement in June to pay $4.4B for U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics from 2014 to 2020 “a smart deal for us.” The company also talked up its new pact to sell wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless, with the companies cross-selling each other’s products. “We don’t have to build a wireless network,” Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit says. “We’re thrilled.” He noted that Comcast will be able to sell Verizon Wireless phone services even in markets where the cable company competes with Verizon’s FiOS video and broadband offering.
Today executive producer Jim Bell will executive produce NBCUniversal’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympics. He will succeed former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who executive produced every Olympics from 1992 until his abrupt departure in May over a contractual dispute when he was replaced by Mark Lazarus. Bell will also continue to oversee all aspects of Today but will probably relinquish day-to-day responsibilities during the games. Before joining Today in 2005, Bell spent 16 years with NBC Sports & Olympics and has worked on every Olympic Games NBC has broadcast since 1992 in either sports (1992, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004) or news (2006, 2008 and 2010). Bell won Emmys for his work on the 1992, 1996, 2000 & 2002 Olympics and a Peabody for NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. UPDATE: Also involved in NBCU’s coverage of the London games will be Dick Ebersol. According to NYT, Ebersol will serve as an advisor to the NBC Olympics production team as part of a larger role as a special advisor to the network.