CHICAGO -- Despite worldwide political and economic uncertainty and without knowing where the games will be, NBC upped the ante by nearly one-third to remain America's Olympic broadcaster through 2012.
The network will pay the International Olympic Committee $2.001 billion for rights to the 2010 Winter and 2012 Summer Games, which NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol said still allows the purchase to be profitable.
That proves that the Olympics' value continues to rise despite contrary trends in the TV marketplace and management scandals that have rocked the international and U.S. Olympic committees since the 1995 negotiations that gave NBC rights to the five Olympics from 2000 to 2008.
NBC paid $1.534 billion for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, ($640 million) and 2008 Summer Games in Beijing ($894 million). The fees are $820 million for the 2010 Winter Games, whose host will be picked this summer, and $1.181 billion for the 2012 Summer Games, to be awarded in 2005, the first time a U.S. network has paid $1 billion for a single Olympics.
"The Olympics are good business and much more than a sporting event," Ebersol said from Lausanne, Switzerland, where the deal was struck. "They are the only great family viewing experience left on American TV, the only thing that puts Mom, Pop and the kids in front of a TV at the same time, where ordinarily Dad would be watching a football game, Mom would be watching ER, and the kids watching MTV."
Seven hours after receiving sealed bids yesterday, the IOC chose NBC's offer over undisclosed offers from ABC and Fox.
The complete package with NBC could be worth slightly more than $2.2 billion. General Electric, the network's parent company, signed for eight years as one of the elite IOC sponsors for between $160 and $200 million.
Philip Hersh is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.