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Roberts on Olympics: 'Full Steam Ahead' Despite Virus

Amid concerns about the effect of the Coronavirus in Asia, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that as far as the upcoming Tokyo Olympics are concerned, it's “full steam ahead.”

Roberts, was asked about the Olympics, which Comcast’s NBCUniversal will televise, at the Morgan Stanley investor conference Tuesday.

“We’re getting ready. We’re excited. We think Japan will hopefully follow what we saw in China,” Roberts said. Comcast is building a Universal theme park in Beijing. Construction there was shut down for several weeks, but construction crews there are working again and Roberts said the company expects to be able to open the part on time, despite the disruption.

Related: NBCU Expects to Top $1.2B in Olympic Ad Sales

While not expecting the Olympics to be disrupted, Roberts noted that the Olympic contract anticipates big disruptions, insulating the company from large losses.

“We’re protected there,” he said. “We also have insurance for any expenses we make. So there should be no losses should there not be an Olympics. There wouldn’t be a profit this year. But again, we’re optimistic the Olympics are going to happen.

Separately, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday said it was fully committed to the games taking place, starting in July.

NBCU said it has already sold a record volume of advertising for the Tokyo games.

“With just under five months to go until the Opening Ceremony, we have sold nearly 90% of our Tokyo Olympic inventory and the vast majority of our tentpole sponsorships have been sold,” said Dan Lovinger, executive VP, ad sales, for the NBC Sports Group in a statement Tuesday.

“We recently surpassed $1.25 billion in national advertising for Tokyo, which exceeds our sales total for Rio 2016 and is a new Olympic record,” Lovinger said. “In addition, our coverage for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is sold out. The momentum for Tokyo 2020 remains strong, but inventory is growing scarce as advertisers continue to value the massive reach of the Games and are eager to align their brands with the biggest media event of the year.”

Jon Lafayette
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.