NBCU Still Expects Olympics To Be Profitable, Says Jeff Shell

Sunisa Lee of Team United States competes on balance beam during the Women's All-Around Final on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Suni Lee competes on balance beam during the Women's All-Around Final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 29, 2021. (Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Despite some setbacks, NBCUniversal still expects the Tokyo Summer Olympics to be profitable.

Speaking on parent company Comcast’s earnings call Thursday morning, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said that linear ratings for the games have been “less than we expected” over the event’s first six days.

“Digital strength has kind of offset that,” Shell said. “Net net, with all this back luck,” the Olympics will be profitable.”

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NBCU had expected the 2020 games to be its most profitable ever. But because of of the COVID-19 pandemic, the games were postponed into 2021. Now they are being held in a Japan where COVID remains a crisis. That’s mean competitions are being held in arenas with no spectators and many high-profile athletes have been unable or unwilling to compete.

As previously reported, NBCU has been providing makegoods to many of its national advertisers to compensate for the lower ratings.

Shell added that the Olympics was important to NBCU and Comcast for more than financial reasons. It is giving Peacock a big boost in usage and is providing a big promotional platform for NBCU and Comcast products.

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.