Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.
Danny Boyle threatened to resign as artistic director of the opening ceremony of last year’s Olympic Games in London, he has disclosed. In an updated book of conversations with journalist Amy Raphael, to be published on April 4, Boyle claims he butted heads with Games organizers Locog over creative differences and his displeasure with certain decisions being made for the Games. He came “close to walking away” when he heard of plans for ground-to-air missile silos to be installed on buildings near the Olympic site, and became “unbelievably unpleasant” during meetings with Locog. “Occasional threats to resign were useful,” he said. “There’s a terror of bad headlines in the press, which you have to turn to your advantage.” A major point of contention was a stadium wrap being designed by the artist Damien Hirst. Hirst pulled out over a row about sponsorship from Dow Chemical and its links to the Bhopal gas disaster in India in 1984, which killed 15,000 people. “He didn’t want to be associated with Dow,” Boyle said, although Hirst did later contribute a design to the closing ceremony.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.
Jim Bell was executive producer of both NBCUniversal’s London Olympics coverage and NBC‘s morning show Today over the summer. He was replaced yesterday at Today after seven years amid flailing ratings and a widely perceived mishandling of Ann Curry’s ouster, with reports that he would land back at the NBC Olympics unit led by Gary Zenkel. Now he will settle in full-time at NBC Sports Group under chairman Mark Lazarus and have “editorial and creative control.” Here’s the full release:
NEW YORK – November 13, 2012 – Jim Bell, who served as the executive producer of the 2012 London Olympics, the most-watched event in U.S. television history, has been named the full-time Executive Producer of NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Bell reports to NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, who made the announcement today.
Downton Abbey‘s UK broadcaster ITV reported its interim results today with the group’s external revenue up 4% to £1.57B ($2.49B). Non-net advertising revenue was up 15% to £730M ($1.16B), driven by production arm ITV Studios, maker of such programs as Hell’s Kitchen and the upcoming Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven. ITV Studios is expected to turn a profit of over £100M ($158.7M) for the year “and the number of new commissions and recommissions already secured for 2013 gives us confidence that there will continue to be good underlying growth in the Studios business,” boss Adam Crozier noted.
Continuing its five-year transformation plan, the company says total cost savings this year will be about £30M ($47.6M), or £10M ($15.87M) ahead of target. The advertising market has been “broadly flat,” Crozier said.
It must feel good for the executives from Philadelphia to issue a quarterly earnings report that doesn’t have to urge investors to be patient with NBCUniversal. The cable and entertainment giant generated net income in Q3 of nearly $3B, up 155.4% vs the period last year, on revenues of $16.5B, +15.4%. Comcast‘s revenue figure was well ahead of the $16.1B that analysts expected. And after factoring out one-time gains from the sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless, and NBCUniversal’s interest in A&E Networks, earnings per share came in a 46 cents — just what the Street anticipated. NBCUniversal more than held its own this time, although with some caveats. The cable networks delivered $2.2B in revenues (+3.2%) and $809M in operating cash flow (+7.6%) as increases in payments from pay TV distributors compensated for what the company says were “flat” advertising sales in the quarter. NBC’s broadcast operations, puffed up by the Olympics, generated $2.8B in revenues (+83.8%) with operating cash flow of $88M (up from a $7M loss last year). The picture looks far less cheery, though, if you take away the impact of the London Games: That would have left broadcast revenues of $1.6B (+5.2%) and a cash flow loss of $25M due to the high programming costs for fall season shows and news expenses to cover the presidential election.
At the Universal Studios film unit, hits including Ted and The Bourne Legacy contributed to revenues of $1.4B (+23.6%) and operating cash flow of $72M (+31.1%). And Universal’s theme park revenues came in at $614M (+5.8%) with operating cash flow of $316M (+11.2%).
NBC is learning much more about who watched its coverage of the London Olympics — and as importantly how they watched them. It’s information the network hopes will help it turn a profit on future Olympic Games since NBC has all U.S. TV rights through 2020 via a successful $4.38 billion bid in June. A record 217 million U.S. viewers watched the Summer Games last month, and results from a dozen studies of the viewing habits of 50,000 participants have been revealed to the New York Times ahead of presentations to advertisers next week.
This week marks the unofficial start of the 2012-13 broadcast season with the season premiere of NBC’s The Voice tonight, followed by the debuts of new NBC comedies Go On, The New Normal and Guys With Kids and the season openers of NBC’s Parenthood, Fox’s The X Factor and ABC’s Shark Tank. More than ever this year, the Emmy Awards will not signal the kickoff of the new season. Of the five broadcast networks, only ABC — which carries the Emmys and will likely use it as a major promotional platform — and CBS — which has always stuck to a traditional rollout — will premiere the bulk of their fall lineups during premiere week, which starts on September 24.
It is not just the other networks’ desire to avoid the mayhem of premiere week that led to the most scattered fall launch I’ve ever seen — it started August 13 with the second-season premiere of NBC’s Grimm and ends November 2 with the debuts of ABC’s Last Man Standing and Malibu Country. Also factoring in is the fact this is an election year, so networks shifted some premiere dates to get longer runs uninterrupted by the four presidential/vice presidential debates on October 3, 11, 16 and 24 and Election Night on November 6. (ABC has been the most mindful of the disruptions, delaying the season premiere of Suburgatory until October 17 and the series debut of Nashville until October 10 so they only get one pre-emption each.) Additionally, NBC has been aggressive in trying to put on fall originals closer to its ratings record-breaking coverage of the London Olympics.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The Olympics delivered ratings bonanzas to Australia’s Nine Network and pay TV platform Foxtel although it was a loss-making exercise for Nine and Foxtel reported there was “a tick up” in signing new subscribers. But the halo effect of the Games helped ensure strong launches Monday night for Nine’s Big Brother and Australian crime series Underbelly: Badness. Nine picked up Big Brother after it was cancelled by Network Ten in 2008 after eight seasons and installed a new host in Sonia Kruger. The premiere episode aired at 7 PM and drew an average of 2.25 million viewers nationally, followed at 8.30 PM by Underbelly: Badness, which averaged 2.37 million. Nine’s live broadcast of the Olympics Closing Ceremony (6AM-9AM Australian Eastern Standard Time) averaged 1.48 million viewers. Nine and Foxtel jointly paid $A120 million ($126 million) for the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Games. Jeff Browne, Nine’s managing director, said the network would lose “less than $20 million” on the London Olympics. Foxtel aired the Games on eight dedicated channels, provided at no cost to Fox Sports subscribers, posting record ratings for subscription channels.
NBC said today it will stream Sunday’s Olympic closing ceremony live online after all, the AP reported. In changing its position, NBC acknowledged that it has taken plenty of heat over its decision to broadcast tape-delayed coverage …
UPDATE, 1:23 PM: The final tally is in and for last night’s XXX Summer Games (16.8/28) it was truly a Gold medal spike worthy of Beach Volleyball winners Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. With 29.1 million viewers on average tuning in, last night was the most watched second Wednesday of any Summer Olympics in 36 years. That includes the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, which pulled in 28.9 million on its second Wednesday. While the London Games has often topped all other non-U.S. Summer Games since 1976, it has rarely done better than Games that were held in the United States. Of course, as it has in the final numbers for 12 of the 13 nights of the London Games, NBC’s primetime 8 – 11 PM coverage of the Olympics once again bested the 2008 Beijing Games. The Summer Olympics four years ago got 24.8 million on its second Wednesday, that’s 17% less than last night. Last night’s coverage was also up 11% in the ratings from Beijing’s 15.2/26 on the comparable night back in 2008. The 32.6 million viewers that NBC has had on average in primetime over the first 13 day s of the London Games is 3.6 million more than the average of 29.0 million that watched the first 13 nights of the Beijing Games.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: NBC released “fast official” ratings for the preview of Go On, which actually aired from 11:06-11:30 PM. It averaged a 5.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 16.1 million viewers and posted a 84% retention from the first to second half, according to NBC.
PREVIOUS: Last night’s Olympics coverage on NBC, punctuated by an all-American beach volleyball women’s final won by three-time champions Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, and a track & field gold rush, delivered a 9.2/27 among adults 18-49 from 8-11 PM and 28.7 million viewers in the fast nationals. That was up 14% from the same night during the Beijing games and down 5% from last Wednesday as Olympics ratings tend to taper off in Week 2. A commercial-free preview of NBC’s new comedy Go On starring Matthew Perry aired from 11:04-11:30 PM. NBC’s 11-11:30 PM fast national average was 18.6 million viewers and a 6.4/20 in 18-49. Extrapolating the numbers, Go On pulled in about 5.8 demo rating and 16.6 million viewers. While that is only a little more than half of the show’s lead-in (NBC’s Olympics coverage scored 10.4 and 30.6 million viewers from 10:30-11 PM), it is still good sampling for the new series.