April 19, 2010
If you work at NBC and you're a "glass half-full" kind of person, then you might have been pleased by the news that the network exceeded financial expectations during the 2010 Olympics. But since nobody at NBC has any reason to be optimistic these days, the news that the Vancouver Games put the network $223 million in the red during the first quarter of the year is yet another blow to a sinking ship.
The figure is slightly less than the $250 million in losses NBC projected and vaguely smaller than the "couple hundred million" that Dick Ebersol had originally claimed his network would lose. The increased revenue was due to better-than-expected advertising sales in the weeks prior to the Games.
NBC did bring in about $800 million in revenue due to the Olympics but that was offset by production costs and the whopping $820 million it took just to get rights to air the Games.
Suits at the network will publicly praise the Olympic performance — the ratings were quite good, 14 percent better than in 2006 — and will tout the fact that more than 20 million people a night were able to see promotions for NBC programming like the new and improved Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the 10 p.m. broadcast block freed up by the failure of Leno's primetime show.
Since NBC was expecting the loss, the news of the final red figure is unlikely to sway the network either way on whether to bid on the next set of Olympic rights, which begin in 2014. NBC, FOX, ESPN and Turner are all reportedly interested in broadcasting the Games. Hope they have some red markers lying around.