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Ebersol: Broadcasters Must Stick Together to Retain Big TV Events

NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol was greeted with a standing ovation from his fellow broadcasters as he stepped to the stage at the TVB Forward Conference in New York today to claim B&C's Broadcaster of the Year award. Despite the increasingly "niched up" media landscape facing broadcasters, Ebersol said big-tent broadcast programming, whether it's the Olympics or particularly juicy NFL football matchups, will continue to bring people together en masse.

The country's prolonged economic ills, Ebersol said, make compelling television events that much more important to people. "The country is really looking for a sense of community right now," he said.

Ebersol used his address to implore the broadcast world to work together in keeping such events away from pay TV, saying there's no evidence that cable can deliver the same kinds of numbers for a world-class TV event. "It's key that these broadcast events stay broadcast events," he said. "We must support each other in going after them."

Ebersol said the Web was not a threat to broadcast TV, but something that can enhance TV-viewing, such as the NBC Sunday Night Football audience discussing the game online as it's being played. Instead of chatting about a game or show at the water cooler the next day, he said, people can discuss it with friends and strangers alike in real time.

Among those in attendance at the Time & Life Building were Ebersol's NBC Universal colleagues, President and CEO Jeff Zucker and Cable Entertainment President Bonnie Hammer, along with Nexstar chief Perry Sook, TVB President Steve Lanzano, Starcom Worldwide VP Tracey Scheppach and Gannett Broadcasting President Dave Lougee. Ebersol had mentored Zucker as the younger man was rising through the ranks at NBC.

In past years, B&C has presented the Broadcaster of the Year award to station group chiefs, such as Sook (2009) and Meredith's Paul Karpowicz (2008). But Ebersol's standout work on landmark projects such as the 2010 Winter Olympics and Sunday Night Football, made him the best choice for 2010.

Ebersol, a 2005 B&C Hall of Fame inductee, was clearly moved by today's honor. "I'm humbled an almost sometimes embarrassed," he said, "by how good people have been to me the last 4-5 years."