Burke: We Stuck the Landing in Rio

Michael Phelps and Simone Biles weren’t the only ones bringing back gold from Rio.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, speaking at the Bank of America/Merrill LynchCommunications and Entertainment Conference onSept. 14, said the company made more than $250 million on the Games, nearly double the $120 million it earned in London in 2012.

The profits came despite a big drop in TV ratings that raised fears that the sponsors who bought more than $1.2 billion worth of advertising would be due tons of makegoods. But Burke said ratings shortfalls were made up during the 17 days of the Olympiad. In fact, pre-existing liabilities were covered during the Games, leaving NBC in good shape heading into the new season.

Burke blamed the ratings decline partly on more aggressive programming of live events on NBCU cable networks during NBC’s big primetime show, plus an increase in streaming, especially by younger viewers. Despite the drop, the Olympics were “a tremendous success.” They drew ratings that more than tripled NBC’s broadcast competition combined, making it a must-buy for advertisers looking to reach big audiences. Using Total Audience Measurement, Olympic viewership was down only by single digits, Burke added.

Though the digital revolution appeared to be hurting NBC’s traditional business model, Burke said all of NBCU’s business managers are hard at work looking for opportunities in the streaming space.

NBCU has launched Seeso, a streaming subscription comedy service. Also, Burke said, NBC Broadcasting and Sports chairman Mark Lazarus “has spent a lot of time talking to his team about ways that you can do individual sports direct-to-consumers, and we’ve experimented with the Tour de France and I think you’ll see us experiment more in the future.”

Burke also noted other digital businesses at NBCU, such as Fandango, which he said is growing rapidly and is very profitable, and Golf Now, which handles booking for golf courses around the world and is promoted on NBCU’s Golf Channel. NBC also has investments in digital media companies Vox and Buzzfeed.

Burke also touted growth at Telemundo, which has closed the Spanish-language ratings gap and now sometimes actually beats leader Univision in prime time. That makes Telemundo a huge monetization opportunity, he said.

Jon Lafayette

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.