According to Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal's president of research, 200 million people are expected to watch at least part of the Olympics on one of NBC's networks. Compared to the 2008 Beiling Olympics, which drew 215 million sets of eyeballs that's not great, but compared to the last Winter Olympics, 2006's Turin Games, it's an increase of 16 million viewers. But will it be enough to save NBC?
As they admitted earlier this month, NBC was set to lose "a couple hundred million dollars" from broadcasting their 835-hour Olympic package. Now that number is a little more solid with estimates putting the loss at "up to $250 million." Not an insignificant chunk of change.
The network bid of $2 billion for the rights to show the Games was nearly twice as much as the next best offering, Fox's $1.3 billion. That was back in 2003 when everyone was buying helicoptors and foie gras hot dogs. But in today's economy, the company is having trouble selling advertising resulting in the massive deficit. Nonetheless, Wurtzel told the Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog that he is "very confident [NBC will] do well from a ratings standpoint." He'd better hope so, as the only way NBC will make the whopping rights fee back is through ad sales that come from companies who see the high ratings and want to get in on the action.
If it's any condolence, at least NBC isn't the BBC. They don't even know how much they spend on their events. Silly BBC.