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Super Game Big for NBC Sports' Lazarus

The Super Bowl is a big event for all of NBCUniversal according to Mark Lazarus, who was named chairman of the NBC Sports Group last year.

“It’s a good experience for us to rally around an event,” says Lazarus, who arrived in Indianapolis Monday looking to put an exclamation point at the end of his first NFL season at NBC.

Lazarus noted that NBC’s Golf Channel is taping an episode of Feherty featuring Fuzzy Zoeller, who hails from Indy. The recently renamed NBC Sports Network-formerly Versus-will have 18 hours of Super Bowl programming this week, including a two-hour live Bob Costas Town Hall meeting focusing on the state of the NFL with guests Commissioner Roger Goodell, New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and players including Jeff Saturday and Dwight Freeney of the Colts.

Other NBC properties are also taking part in the Super Bowl atmosphere, from the Today show to cable networks Bravo, E! and Weather Channel to Access Hollywood, Lazarus says.

Ad sales on broadcast have exceeded expectations, with spots selling for as much as $4 million. NBC and the NFL will also be streaming the Super Bowl for the first time. Lazarus said sales of commercials during the streaming coverage have beaten the network’s goals, but there were still opportunities available. ”

“We believe we’ll have an interesting complimentary audience,” Lazarus says.

Lazarus says he’s been impressed by the incredible level of detail that has gone into preparing for the big game, including the six hours of pregame programming, which has to entertain and inform the millions of casual viewers who will be tuning in along with the more hardcore fans.

And after the final gun goes off at the big game, there won’t be much time to rest. NBC has a busy golf schedule and is looking ahead to the NHL Playoffs. Then there are the Summer Olympic Games from London.

There could be baseball on the horizon as well. As NBC looks to add compelling content to its NBC Sports Network, ESPN’s deal with Major League Baseball ends in 2013. Lazarus, who did deals to carry Atlanta Braves baseball at Turner Broadcasting for years,  called baseball a premiere property and one that would eat a lot of innings to help fill the schedule of a 24-hour, 52 week sports networks.

MLB’s current rights holders include Fox, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting. NBC’s regional sports networks currently televise games for the New York Mets, Chicago’s White Sox and Cubs, and the A’s and Giants in the San Francisco/Oakland market.

Lazarus says it will take time for NBC Sports Network to grow and for viewers to find it. But the key to that growth is “we have to have compelling content.”

Golf Channel does a morning news show, and there has been speculation that NBC Sports Networks could do a nightly news show that would compete with ESPN’s mighty SportsCenter. Lazarus didn’t say he wanted to create another SportsCenter, but “we will have daily relevant content, but it will be in our voice” and in appropriate dayparts.