NBC launches games-only arm

NEW YORK — NBC has set up a new Olympics division — distinct from NBC Sports — that will handle coverage of five consecutive Olympics through 2008.

The unit — which will be headed by NBC Sports topper Dick Ebersol and broadcast and network operations prexy Randy Falco — will run the network’s programming, marketing, sales and promotion operations for the Olympic Summer Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and the Olympic Winter Games in 2002 and 2006.

NBC’s unprecedented purchase of broadcast rights to five Olympics — locked up in two consecutive deals in 1995 for a total outlay of $3.6 billion — makes it feasible for the network to create a new division, rather than the usual practice of putting together a temporary Olympics staff that disbands when the Games are over.

“The awkwardness always is that you assemble this terrific team of people, but because you’re uncertain whether you’re going to have (rights to) those Games in the future, you can’t necessarily hold on to them,” Falco said. “Now we can extend the shelf life of the talented staff we have assembled.”

NBC already has been reaping the benefits of its long-term rights deal, inking a first-of-its-kind, $500 million sponsorship pact with General Motors Corp. over the span of the 2000-2008 Olympics. The GM pact is the largest sports sponsorship to date, but negotiations for other, similar sponsorship deals are far along, according to the network, though it will not identify potential sponsors.

The Olympics division, which will work closely with NBC Sports, will be made up mostly of existing NBC personnel, many of whom have worked on NBC’s past Olympics coverage. Ebersol, who will be the new division’s chairman and CEO, and Falco, who will be president and chief operating officer, will both retain their existing responsibilities within NBC.

David Neal, currently a producer of NFL and NBA telecasts on NBC, will be coordinating producer of Olympics coverage, as he was for NBC’s telecasts of the 1992 and 1996 Games.

The Peacock network begins production in March on “The Olympic Show,” a weekly series to air on CNBC through 2008.

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