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Dick Ebersol on ESPN: 'Most powerful behemoth ever'

Figure skater Tonya Harding glides over the ice

Figure skater Tonya Harding glides over the ice during her practice in Portland, Ore., Monday, Feb. 14, 1994. Harding admitted plotting with her former husband to hire an assailant to club rival American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan on the leg one moth prior to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. The plot didn't work. Kerrigan recovered in time to win a silver and Harding finished out of the running. Harding was banned from figure skating and stripped of her national title. (Credit: JACK SMITH/AP/AP)

NBC Universal was nice enough to invite me to its holiday party Tuesday, so I went to welcome its employees to the fraternity of media people who work for big cable companies.

(They served cheesesteaks in honor of Philly-based Comcast; NBC boss Jeff Zucker made a funny joke about cable service appointments.)

I tried to pry information out of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol about how the sale to Comcast might affect bidding for the 2014 and '16 Olympics, but I didn't get too far - on or off the record.

The only thing Mr. Ebersol shared with my tape recorder was his thoughts on the bidding power of ESPN/ABC, which is expected to made a play for future Olympics:

"Sitting on their $5 billion a year worth of sub[scriber] fees, before anybody else has even begun working, means that they can wake up any morning they want and buy whatever property they want, and nobody can remotely compete against them, as evidenced by the BCS deal.

"Fox had done a good job. Fox was willing to pay more. And they just blew by them. It just doesn't matter. Their math isn't our math. It doesn't matter how upset we are; it's their math, by being the most popular sub fees site in the history of our business.

"The average American home now across all of their services pays more than $4 a month. So do the math. That's $5 billion before you sell one frame of advertising.

"Are we all jealous? Sure we are. But the bottom line is it doesn't mitigate against the fact they're the most powerful behemoth ever.

"Why doesn't everything to go ESPN? Well, because they're that big, almost everything they do, with very few exceptions, is a commodity, and I think most people would like to be presented somewhat differently than being lost in being a commodity."

Photo: AP

Tags: NBC , ESPN , Olympics , Dick Ebersol

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