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NBC keeps Olympics 'til 2020

NBC retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth nearly $4.4 billion, defeating rival bids from ESPN and Fox. AP video. (June 7)

NBC Universal, the home of the Olympics for a generation of American sports viewers, will retain the games through 2020, the Associated Press reported Tuesday in advance of the IOC’s official announcement.

The decision was a mild upset, given strong interest from ESPN and Fox and the recent resignation of NBC Sports chairman, Dick Ebersol, who has long and deep ties to the IOC.

It also was not known how far Comcast, NBC’s new parent, would go in paying for an event that lost more than $200 million in 2010 in Vancouver and is expected to lose millions more in London next year.

But the company decided it could make a strong bid work, securing the 2014 and ’16 Games in Sochi, Russia, and Rio de Janeiro, as well as the ’18 and ’20 Games, whose host cities have not been chosen.

(In other words, the deal expires one year before Rick DiPietro's contract does. But that's another story.)

NBC is expected to pay more than $4 billion for the four Olympics. Its $2 billion bid for the 2010 and ’12 Games was far more than other networks offered.

Comcast offers multiple cable outlets to supplement NBC’s coverage, including Versus, which soon will be rebranded with NBC as part of its name.

Fox and ESPN each had promised to show every event live initially, then repackage highlights for prime time viewing. NBC, which under Ebersol held back some marquee events on tape delay, did not publicly say how it will handle the London Games and beyond.

After losing out on the NCAA Tournament to CBS/Turner, ESPN was expected use its considerable resources to make a push for the Olympics.

Comcast can leverage the Olympics as a reason to up subscriber fees for its cable channels, so as with most things in sports television, the costs eventually will be passed on to consumers.

Tags: NBC , Olympics

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