In a stunning, pre-emptive deal negotiated secretly over six months, the International Olympic Committee awarded the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to NBC on Wednesday for an additional six games.
NBC already holds the rights through the 2020 Olympics in a four-games deal signed in 2011 for a then-record $4.38 billion.
The new agreement, which covers three Summer Olympics and three Winter Games, solidifies NBC’s long-running hold on one of the world’s most lucrative sports properties and offers a potential boost for a U.S. bid for the 2024 Olympics.
“We know that, with this long-term agreement, the Olympic Games and the Olympic values are in good hands with a partner we trust ... because of the long-time experience we have with NBC,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
While NBC outbid Fox and ESPN in 2011 for the previous rights, with all three networks making presentations and submitting sealed bids to the IOC, there was no auction or open bidding this time as Bach conducted hush-hush talks with NBC executives.
Bach said he first floated the idea of a new long-term deal with NBC at a dinner in New York in November. He held further talks with network executives during the Sochi Winter Games in February and continued the negotiations under wraps, with only his closest aides informed.
“The last touch was given to the deal this afternoon,” Bach said Wednesday in a conference call from IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the contract was signed.
Bach said he saw no reason to open up bids to other networks.
“We wanted to build on this long-term partnership with NBC,” he said. “We didn’t see any reason to take any risk with regards to broadcast and presentation of the Olympic Games in the United States.”
The new agreement goes into effect from 2021 and covers the Summer Olympics of 2024, 2028 and 2032 and the Winter Games of 2022, 2026 and 2030. The host cities for all those games have yet to be chosen.
The deal covers all media platforms, including free television, subscription TV, Internet and mobile rights. The deal is valued at $7.65 billion, plus an extra $100 million signing bonus for promotion of the Olympics between 2015 and 2020.
According to the IOC, the new deal breaks down this way: $2.5 billion for the Olympics of 2022 and 2024, $2.55 billion for 2026-2028 and $2.60 billion for 2030-2032. It represents a 15 percent increase on average per games over the previous deal.
“This agreement is excellent news for the entire Olympic Movement as it helps to ensure its financial security in the long term,” Bach said.
By 2032, NBC will have covered a total of 23 editions of the Olympics going back to the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo. The network has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002 — all the games since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, NBC’s parent company, said the network was driven to make a new deal because of the profits and strong ratings generated by the 2012 London Olympics and Sochi Games.
“Even though we may not know what the world will look like, we feel confident that the Olympics will still be the Olympics,” Roberts said.
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke said the deal marked “one of the most important days in the history” of the network and called the Olympics “massively popular and profitable programming.”
NBC and Comcast executives said rapidly-changing broadcast technology was a big motivation behind the pursuit of a new long-term deal.
Slightly more than half the viewers who watched the Sochi Olympics on NBC also used a computer, tablet or smartphone to get information about the games while the TV was on, according to the network.
The agreement could benefit a potential U.S. bid to host the Olympics. The U.S. hasn’t held the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996. The U.S. Olympic Committee is currently considering cities for a possible bid for the 2024 Olympics, which will be awarded in 2017.
The IOC and NBC said the deal was made without any guarantees of where the games will be held.
“The allocation or the election of the host city is not about money,” Bach said. “There are many more factors to be considered. We were signing this agreement even before the procedure for the 2024 has started.
“Having said this, a strong bid from the United States would be very much welcome, would be a very strong competitor.”
USOC chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun were present at the signing. The USOC will receive a 12.75 percent share of the total deal, plus or minus a margin related to inflation.
The agreement marks a big victory for Bach, who was elected IOC president in September, taking over from Jacques Rogge after 12 years in office.
It also comes as a boost as the IOC faces chronic delays threatening the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and an uncertain field for the 2022 Winter Games, whose candidates are Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo.