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How the IOC-NBCUniversal Olympics deal came about

Thomas Bach

Thomas Bach first floated the idea of the International Olympic Committee and NBCUniversal extending their partnership in November, two months after he was elected IOC president.

NBCU was awarded U.S. broadcast rights for six more Olympics through 2032 on Wednesday. Its previous deal, from 2011, had NBCU as the rights holder through 2020.

In 2011, the rights were awarded to NBCU after a bidding process with other networks. This time, the negotiations with NBCU since November were not discussed until Wednesday.

“Sorry that we proceeded in keeping it secret, but it’s also an expression of the excellent partnership that we’ve enjoyed [with NBCU] and that we can rely on each other,” Bach said.

Bach said he and two other IOC officials had dinner with NBCU partners in New York in November, where Bach said he “was floating the idea for the first time.” The other IOC officials were director general Christophe de Kepper and marketing director Timo Lumme.

The idea wasn’t shared with anybody else from the IOC from then on, Bach said. They met again in Sochi with Comcast Corporation Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. Bach said Comcast looked favorably on the idea at the time, and they negotiated more in the same small circle. The deal was signed by both sides in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

“This is a happy day for the whole Olympic movement,” Bach said. “The Olympic values are in good hands with a partner whom we trust, whom we have full confidence in. We can say this because of the longtime experience that we have with NBC, who have a more than excellent track record when it comes to braodcasting the Games. We are sure that this track record will even be improved in the future.”

Roberts said the Olympics’ importance to Comcast and NBCU was solidified by the last two Games, citing London 2012 as the most watched sporting event in U.S. history with 217 million viewers. He also said Sochi was the most consumed Winter Games in history.

U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Larry Probst, who is also an IOC member, said the deal will not influence whether the USOC bids for the 2024 Olympics. The U.S. hasn’t hosted an Olympics since the 2002 Winter Games and is currently narrowing a field of potential 2024 candidates with an eye on deciding if it will bid by the end of the year. The 2024 Olympics will be awarded in 2017.

Bach said the $7.75 billion deal was not only about money. More importantly, it was about preserving Olympic ideals.

“We are thinking long term in the IOC,” he said. “We are here for 120 years [so far], and we want to be there much longer. We want to leave a good legacy.”

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