In TV land, big money doesn’t guarantee victory at Olympics

Washington Post - and Bloomberg News | August 4th, 2016 5:36 pm - updated: 5:39 pm.

In 2011, NBC won the right to broadcast all of the Olympic Games from 2014 through 2020 at a cost of $4.38 billion. This year’s Rio Olympics alone will cost the network $1.2 billion.

In 2014, the network re-upped with the International Olympic Committee through 2032 for $7.65 billion.

The IOC, of course, was thrilled with the money.

“The agreement is a major contribution to the long-term financial stability of the entire Olympic Movement,” the IOC said in a statement announcing the extension.

But reciprocity goes only so far.

Although the IOC agreed to move the ratings-magnet swimming finals to nighttime this year to placate NBC — some of those finals won’t begin until after midnight Rio time — the IOC said no when the network asked Olympic officials to change the order of the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony on Friday so that U.S. athletes would come out at a more ratings-friendly time.

In that vein, NBC lobbied unsuccessfully to change the spectacle’s official language from Brazil’s native Portuguese to English.

In the traditional Parade of Nations, teams enter the arena in alphabetical order. Switching languages would have put the United States’ 554 athletes near the back, giving American audiences a reason to watch the full broadcast. As it is, the team will enter somewhere in the middle, because in Portuguese, the delegation is known as Estados Unidos.

IOC Communications Director Mario Andrada said the organization’s rules require that the official language of the opening ceremony has to be that of the host country. NBC, the biggest global broadcaster for the Games, didn’t respond to a request for comment by Bloomberg News.

The opening ceremony is the only part of the Olympics that won’t air live in the U.S. The four-hour spectacular will start at 8 p.m. Eastern time, an hour after the show begins in Rio.

“We want to start when people are at home to watch,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said. “It is a show, not an actual event.”

Zenkel predicted the ceremony would be one of the highest-rated nights of the Games. It helps that Rio’s time zone is just an hour ahead of Eastern Time. In 2012 at the London Games, NBC received criticism for delaying its broadcast of the main events, giving rise to the #NBCFAIL campaign on social media.

Still, London 2012 was the most-watched event in U.S. TV history, according to the network. And NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke said NBC earned $120 million in profit from the 2012 Olympics.

As for this year in Rio?

“We are going to make a lot more than that,” he said.

NBC's daytime and late-night set for the Rio Games is located on Copacabana Beach. NBCUniversal's networks will air 2,084 hours of Olympic programming. (Courtesy of NBC via AP)
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_Oly-NBC-1.jpgNBC's daytime and late-night set for the Rio Games is located on Copacabana Beach. NBCUniversal's networks will air 2,084 hours of Olympic programming. (Courtesy of NBC via AP)
An F-5 fighter flies over Guanabara Bay and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio last month during a Brazilian Air Force demonstration for the media ahead of the Olympics. Approximately 550 U.S. athletes will compete in the Games. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_rio-view-1.jpgAn F-5 fighter flies over Guanabara Bay and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio last month during a Brazilian Air Force demonstration for the media ahead of the Olympics. Approximately 550 U.S. athletes will compete in the Games. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

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