NBC, News Corp practice Olympic hedging

September 16, 2009

Big media executives are developing a new Olympic sport — hedging. Two of the best contenders are NBC-Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York City asked both executives on Tuesday if they were interested in bidding for rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both answered the question in ways that sound different until you realize that they actually sound… the same.

Murdoch said “We haven’t thought about it” and concluded with “I wouldn’t think so.” Zucker said, “We’ll have to see what happens. We’re not going to make any decision that doesn’t make business sense. …. The Olympics are an important part of the company and something we’d would like to be involved with if it makes business sense.”

Murdoch pointed out what would make business sense for both companies: holding the summer games in Chicago. If the Windy City gets the spot, expect the executives to firm up their answers quickly, and come back saying “yes.” That would make a good advertising opportunity for whoever gets those broadcast rights.

However (there’s always a however), the International Olympics Committee doesn’t plan to award broadcast rights until it votes for the city that will host the games. That will be either Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid. No sane U.S. network executive is going to show how much they want the broadcast rights before that vote, because they don’t want to make Chicago-sized bids for a Madrid-sized spectacle. So until the IOC votes, expect to hear little more than tepid interest in the games.

(Reuters Photo: Jeff Zucker, très sportif.)

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