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Burke Says NBCU Made $250M on Rio Olympics

Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said the Rio Olympics generated a profit of more than $250 million.

Speaking at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference Wednesday, Burke noted that they had lost as much as $200 million on Olympics when it first bought the broadcaster.

The London Olympics in 2012 made about $120 million.

Even though linear ratings for NBC in primetime were down 15% from London, Burke called Rio "a tremendous success."

He noted that ratings were still about three times what ABC, CBS and Fox generated during the 17 days of the Olympics. That still makes the Olympics an important event for marketers.

He also said that some of the ratings decline was caused because NBC programmed popular Olympic events against its primetime Olympic programming on USA Network and the NBC network.

"We felt it was important to do," he said. "If Michael Phelps was swimming, or the U.S. soccer team was playing and those were both things people wanted to see."

Burke said that viewership of the Olympics would be best measured by looking at Total Audience, which would include cable and streaming viewership. By that measure, viewing was down single digits from the very successful London games, he said.

Ad sales were up 20% to $1.2 billion from London. The lower rating meant that Olympic advertisers were owed makegoods. But Burke said those makegoods were covered during the 17 days of the games. There was so much inventory during the games, that NBC gave other clients makegoods during the games. That means that NBCU's makegoods liabilities were lower after the Olympics than before, he said.

Burke said that NBC's long-term investment in the Olympics looks like a good deal. The rights deal NBCU signed has a compound annual growth rate of 1%, and he said Rio advertisers were looking forward to the next Olympiads in Korea and Japan.

"We're not in any way concerned," he said. "We're delighted we have the rights for 16 years."

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.