NBC has decided to keep all its Summer Olympic Gold for its owned stations and affiliates.The Peacock web announced it has put the kibosh on taking any cable partners for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, shutting out Turner Broadcasting, which desperately wanted to partake of the premier international event in its own backyard. In addition, the Peacock web is in serious discussions about adding another 20 hours of Summer Olympic programming to the more than 165 hours that are already slated, according to network sources. That would make the Atlanta Games the most comprehensively covered Olympics in the history of the event. The extra hours would preempt NBC’s sluggish daytime schedule during the July 20-Aug. 4 event. NBC’s decision to go it alone comes in the wake of CBS’ stunning performance with the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. But NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol said the decision to go it alone had been made before the Winter Games began. “The number one factor in our decision was our affiliates and their willingness to support our effort,” said Ebersol. “They were there when we needed them most.” Ebersol declined to discuss the terms of the agreement, but according to industry sources the affils will pick up an estimated 15% of the $ 456 million rights pricetag. The affils’ contribution will be gleaned from a commercial inventory give-back. That approximate $ 68 million contribution is more than double the estimated $ 30 million the affils ponied up for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. NBC paid $ 401 million for those Games. Before a final deal was hammered out with the affils, NBC had held talks with several potential cable partners. Prime among them was Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting. But Turner wanted to buy into the Games by giving NBC time on Turner’s cable networks to sell instead of a cash upfront payment, according to people familiar with the negotiations. It was an offer NBC honchos nixed. Turner, presumably, was reluctantto pay cash upfront after TNT’s lackluster results with the limited rights it had in partnership with CBS for the last two Winter Games. Nevertheless, NBC insiders said there was “a slim possibility” that the network would still strike a deal with Turner to use some of its staff and technical facilities for the Games. When NBC grabbed the rights to the Atlanta Games, there was speculation the network would use the regional cable sports networks it jointly owns with Cablevision systems and TeleCommunications Inc., in an attempt to build a franchise to challenge ESPN. In the end, however, NBC was reluctant to open a cable window. The Peacock web didn’t want a replay of the 1992 Summer Games, where the network’s ill-planned pay-per-view package not only lost millions but angered affils over not having an exclusive on the event. NBC’s attempt to mollify affils by offering them a share of PPV profits ended up a zero-sum gambit. “This is a lot better deal than the last time around,” said Greg Kelly, general manager of the NBC Sacramento affil KCRA. “With the Olympics, it’s not nice to share.”
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