The latest edition of the Sports Illustrated Media podcast with Richard Deitsch dropped on Thursday and his guest was Sports Business Daily media writer John Ourand. While the two discussed various topics including the ACC Network, Tom Jackson leaving ESPN, and the presumption many have about ESPN leaning left politically, the main topic at hand was the 2016 Rio Olympics which get underway soon.
The Olympics have been mired in controversy for more than a year. Every week seemed to bring a new story about something going wrong involving the games, or simply the city itself, and it stands to reason that those issues will make for an ongoing backdrop even as NBC hopes to put the focus on the event itself.
Deitsch asked Ourand, who has spoken with NBC executives, whether or not audiences can expect to hear about the stories outside the arena in between sporting events. It sounds like the answer is… only if they want to.
“I asked [NBC Olympics Executive Producer] Jim Bell that question. He said that once the games start, they’ll cover that aspect of Rio only as it pertains to the actual events and sports. So if they’re covering, you know, rowing, and the boat comes out dripping of oil, I think they will make mention of that. NBC feels that it has NBC News there to cover a lot of what you were talking about.
“But by the same token, NBC Sports has Bob Costas there and Bob is not stage managed and he’s not scripted and he’s gonna have a lot of airtime to fill during primetime. I would not put it past Bob to bring up something if he deems it appropriate to bring up.”
Deitsch then asked if Ourand knew what percentage of news coverage audiences might expect during NBC’s primetime broadcast? Or should viewers expect more of a “Disneyfied” broadcast?
“If I’m tuning in to watch swimming, I really just wanna watch swimming. That’s kinda what I wanna watch. If I’m tuning in to see Lester Holt or if I’m tuning in to MSNBC, then I’m tuning in to find out the news around the games. But I think within the pool or within the court, I don’t begrudge Jim Bell for his decision to say, ‘No, we’re focused on the events’ cause I think that most people will just want to watch the events, still having knowledge that NBC is covering the other part of it in their news and studio program.”
Deitsch ends the Olympics discussion with a question about whether or not NBC make a good investment, paying $7.75 billion for the Olympics broadcast rights through 2032. Ourand says you have to think bigger picture than just what NBC gets out of it.
“I think it’s a great deal mainly because of Comcast. If you take a look before Comcast bought NBC, it was owned by GE and NBC, by many people’s estimation, overpaid for Beijing. Well, they didn’t overpay for Beijing because GE as a corporation was able to get in there and start a business in China. So it ended up helping the overall corporation immeasurably.
“You and I were at that press conference and we saw [Comcast Chairman & CEO] Brian Roberts talk about exactly what Comcast is rolling out. All the technology that they’ve developed around these games. And you can just imagine all the ancillary revenue they’re gonna get two, three, four, five years down the line from technology they developed solely for these games. So I think it’s a smart move for Comcast more than NBC.”