Longtime NBC Executive Resigns

The NBC Sports Group chairman has resigned. The longtime NBC executive has been closely associated with NBC's broadcasts of the Olympics — as well as the creation of Saturday Night Live. Dick Ebersol leaves as NBC's operations are reconfigured by Comcast. Michele Norris speaks with NPR's David Folkenflik for more.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, announced his resignation today after a career spanning more than four decades. The news comes not long after Comcast completed its takeover of NBC Universal and just weeks before NBC and other networks are set to bid on broadcasting rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now from our New York bureau to talk more about this. And David, tell us a bit more about Dick Ebersol. What does he represent for NBC?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, he's really a giant in sports TV and perhaps one of the last giants in the old legacy networks. He had started as protege for the legendary Roone Arledge over at ABC and had interned for him in the Olympics in the late '60s.

He came over to NBC. He helped to create "Saturday Night Live," which I think a lot of people forget. And then he really, as he took over sports in the late '80s and for 22 years led that for NBC, he really had a lot of those mammoth deals with the NFL and with the Olympics, in particular, forging strong relationships and making that a marquis element of the NBC brand.

NORRIS: And how important is that to the NBC brand, the coverage of the Olympics?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the relationship is just extraordinarily close. I mean, if you think about it, it's a $2 billion deal, got NBC the licensing rights to broadcast the games here through 2012, the London games next year.

NBC actually has a senior vice president which sits on the board of commissioners of the International Olympics Committee. And GE, which until this year was the majority owner of NBC, was a global sponsor of the most recent Olympics in Beijing, 2008, the Summer Games. It's really hard to disentangle the two.

NORRIS: So very important to the network and a lot of questions now. What do Comcast's intentions appear to be as those Olympic negotiations near?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the network took pains to say that this, you know, quietly, off the books, that this was a departure that had to do with negotiation over Mr. Ebersol's contract, not about its intention towards the games. Comcast has said publicly it intends to bid vigorously for the games at the time at which they put in their bid next month.

That said, Comcast is taking a much more gimlet eye on the question of profits and losses. NBC took, in an economic downturn, took a loss of about $200-plus for the Winter Games Vancouver in 2010. Comcast doesn't want anything like that. And it's looking very carefully at it.

And this time, in addition, ESPN is expected to make a very muscular bid for the first time, a very competitive bid. And Fox, too, is said to be interested in getting into the game.

NORRIS: That's NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thank you very much.


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