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NBCU Locks Up Olympic Rights Through 2032

The Olympic flame will continue to burn brightly on the networks and platforms of NBCUniversal through 2032.

Comcast’s programming arm has reached a new multiplatform deal with the International Olympic Committee from 2021 through the Winter Games in 2032. The agreeement is valued at $7.65 billion, plus a $100 million signing bonus of sorts to promote Olympism and Olympic values between 2015 and 2020.

By 2032, NBCU will have covered a total of 23 editions of the Olympics, since its inaugural Games' broadcast in Tokyo back 1964. The new agreement covers the 2024, 2028 and 2032 Summer Games, and the 2022, 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics. None of the host cities for those quadrennials have been declared at this point.

After coming up empty with a 2016 try for Chicago, the U.S. Olympic Committee is currently considering cities for a possible bid for the 2024 Summer Games, which will be awarded in 2017.

The move, reminiscent of a gambit by former NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol made to acquire the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Games for $2.3 billion, came without bidding, as NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel negotiated the deal with IOC president Thomas Bach and his team. The accord was reached some six weeks ago at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Fox and ESPN have been engaged in Olympic bidding in the past, but have never exhibited the financial fervor that NBCU and its predecessor NBC have expressed in terms of rights fees.

“The Olympic Games are in good hands with a partner whom we trust,” said Bach on a conference call. “We can say this because of the longtime experience we have with NBC, who have a more-than-excellent track record when it comes to broadcasting the Games.”

NBCU’s current deal, signed in 2011, was set to expire following the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Having just telecast the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, NBCU will next tee up the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in 2016, followed by the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018.

Comcast/NBCU paid $4.38 billion, or an average of $1.1 billion per quadrennial, for the four-pack of Games listed above. Under the new accord, Comcast/NBCU will allocate and average of $1.29 billion for each of those six Olympic Games, a 17% jump over the average cost of the 2014-20 pact.  

Compared with other sports rights, though, that’s a relatively low rate of inflation, with the programmer locking in a measure of cost certainty for an event that has historically galvanized the American populace for 2.5 weeks every other year. During the Sochi Games, NBC averaged 21.5 million viewers in primetime for its taped telecasts. Its live presentations on NBCSN posted a host of Nielsen marks for the national sports service, while its expansive digital platforms produced record Winter Games results.

Still, it’s a big bet, given the rapidly changing technological universe. While the MPVD community, headed by Comcast and its programming arm, is committed to building TV Everywhere and keeping pay-TV customers withing that ecosystem, no one is certain how big the cord-cutting movement will become, or if today’s younger Americans, who don’t have the loyalty to television that their parents have, will eschew the medium.

Nevertheless, Comcast/NBCU will hold all Olympic platforms rights – and those yet to materialize or be imagined – for another two decades.  

More immediately, the value of the Olympics circa 2014 is evident.

With the Sochi Games, NBCU, which paid $875 million in rights for the Russian competition, rang up $1.1 billion in ad revenue to finish in the black, ringing up 36% gain from the previous Winter Games in Vancouver,  sales for which were depressed by last decade’s recession. Moreover, the Games served as a key promotional platform for the Tonight Show handoff to Jimmy Fallon from Jay Leno.

Moreover, along with the emergence of top new drama The Black List and the continued primetime leading performance of Sunday Night Football, the Sochi Games will help NBC wear broadcast’s coveted 18-to-49 crown for the first time in a decade.

“The London and Sochi Olympics on NBC have taken place under Comcast ownership and each posted record performances, giving us the confidence to make this significant commitment today,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on the conference call.