AP Sports Writer
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — NBC retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth about $4.4 billion, defeating rival bids from ESPN and Fox, officials with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.
Three officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been officially announced by the International Olympic Committee.
NBC, now controlled by Comcast, won the bid less than a month after the resignation of longtime sports and Olympics chief Dick Ebersol in a dispute with the new owners. The victory extends NBC’s reign as the Olympic network in the United States, a period stretching back 20 years.
NBC has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002.
The network now will have exclusive rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the 2018 Winter Games and 2020 Olympics, whose sites have not yet been chosen.
It was the first U.S. rights auction since 2003, when NBC secured the 2010 and 2012 Olympics in a deal worth $2.2 billion. That included $2 billion in straight rights fees, plus a $200 million global sponsorship deal with NBC’s former parent company General Electric.
The IOC had said it hoped to exceed that deal this time. However, the $4.4 billion figure represents $2.2 billion again for each set of two games, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether another sponsorship deal would increase the total value.
Executives from NBC, ESPN and Fox submitted sealed envelopes Tuesday into a see-through plexiglass box, then left the building to let IOC officials open them and consider the offers in private.
IOC President Jacques Rogge was to announce the winner Tuesday evening. The IOC wanted a deal in place before its general assembly starts July 4 in Durban, South Africa.
NBC was the last of three networks to make a formal presentation to the IOC.
Among the 17-member NBC delegation was Bob Costas, who has hosted the network’s coverage of eight Olympics.
“I think we had a compelling presentation, and I hope they felt the same way,” Costas said afterward. “I hope we retain the rights. My message was we’ve done it well and we’d like to do it again.”
Mark Lazarus, who replaced Ebersol as NBC Sports chairman, was asked about not having the former Olympic mastermind with the bid.
“I’ve never been here with him,” Lazarus said. “We have a great team of people who put the best foot forward with our heritage and legacy.’”
NBC’s contingent also included CEO Steve Burke and Brian Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast.
Comcast executives have made clear they’re not interested in a repeat of the 2010 Vancouver Games, when NBC lost more than $200 million in a rough economy. NBC also stands to take a similar hit from next year’s London Olympics.
Traditionally, the IOC awards the rights for two games at a time, but this time the networks expressed interest in going for a four-games package. They did so without knowing where the last two will be held. The IOC will select the 2018 host city on July 6 in Durban. The candidates are Annecy, France; Munich; and Pyeongchang, South Korea. The host of the 2020 Olympics will be chosen in 2013, and Rome is the only official contender so far.
NBC’s main competition had been expected to come from ESPN/ABC.
ESPN president George Bodenheimer cited the “unrivaled” assets of parent company Disney, its appeal to young viewers and plans for live coverage of all events.
“I believe the assets of the Walt Disney Co. are unequaled,” he said after his network’s presentation.
ESPN brought the powerful Disney brand to the table, which raised the prospect of a possible tie-in with the games. GE threw in a $200 million global sponsorship as part of NBC’s winning bid eight years ago.