Where does Michelle Beadle fit in? Dan Patrick Show debuts on NBC Sports Network

Dan Patrick settled into his new home  Monday morning. At 9 a.m. ET, The Dan Patrick Show officially launched on the NBC Sports Network.

“It’s a big day for us,” said Patrick at the top of the show. “We’re doing the big boy thing here. I’m glad we were able to keep it in the family….I feel bad for Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Matt Lauer, Brian Williams. They now work for a company that employees ‘The Danettes.'”

It is a great move for Patrick, giving him a national platform for his radio show. It also is a good move for NBCSN. Patrick finally gives the network a block of sports programming in the morning, knocking out some of the hunting shows.

So where does this leave Michelle Beadle? In September, NBCSN president Jon Miller told me the network was trying to find “the right format” for a show built around her.

Miller said:

“She could be a perfect morning show for us. We’re talking with some other people she might work with. She’s really a talent. She’s looking to work more and we’re looking to put her to work. It’s only a matter of time before we come out with an announcement about a show with her.”

The new schedule has Patrick following The Lights, NBCSN morning highlights show, which airs in the mornings. Beadle could move into a slot prior to Patrick if the intention is to have her do an AM show. Her duties at Access Hollywood make mornings a likely fit for Beadle on NBCSN.

It remains to be seen how it all shakes out. But Beadle and Patrick would give NBCSN some pop in the morning.

Here’s the release from NBCSN on Patrick:

NBC Sports Network has acquired multi-year rights from DIRECTV to air The Dan Patrick Show, the renowned sports television show and syndicated radio program starring Football Night in America co-host Dan Patrick. The Dan Patrick Show will debut on NBC Sports Network tomorrow and air weekdays from 9 a.m.–Noon ET. A “Best Of” version will air weekday afternoons from 4-5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

To coincide with the debut of the show tomorrow, NBC Sports Network will relocate to Channel 220 (from Channel 603) on DIRECTV, which is adjacent to other national sports channels. DIRECTV owns and operates The Dan Patrick Show, which airs daily on DIRECTV’s exclusive Audience Network as well.

“Dan and the Danettes generate buzz and relevance every day with their entertaining format and top-line guests, making The Dan Patrick Show a perfect morning fit for the NBC Sports Network and its new channel position on DIRECTV,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports & NBC Sports Network.

“I’ve loved my time working for NBC Sports, on both Football Night in America and the Olympic coverage, and I really wanted to see our show on NBC Sports Network,” said Patrick. “This is good for the show, the channel and, most of all, the fans. I think the show that we have created with DIRECTV will be perfect for NBC Sports Network as part of its daily lineup.”

Patrick added, “I like where the NBC Sports Network is going. I think we are joining a powerhouse sports network in its early stages. I did this once before in my career and it worked out pretty well.”

“We are extremely proud of the work Dan, the Danettes and the DIRECTV Entertainment team have done to create a truly distinctive TV show that has redefined the genre, or as Dan likes to describe it: ‘A TV show about a radio show on TV’,” said Chris Long, senior vice president, Entertainment and Production for DIRECTV. “Our incredibly creative production team has developed a show for our Audience Network that just keeps getting better year by year, so we’re not surprised NBC Sports Network wanted it for their morning line-up.”

The Dan Patrick Show will follow The ‘Lights, NBC Sports Network’s new highlights show that launched this summer. Designed to serve the busy morning schedule of sports fans, The ‘Lights, which will air from 8-9 a.m. ET, is a 20-minute sports report that uses a unique presentation of simultaneous video clips, graphics and voiceovers to deliver scores and information.

“Dan’s show will combine with The ‘Lights to give NBC Sports Network a morning programming block that truly super-serves sports fans by providing them with all the highlights they need, followed by Dan’s unique perspective on sports and entertainment,” added Miller.



NBC Sports Network will feel pain of NHL lockout starting tonight; forced to air old DeNiro flick instead of hockey

If you’re a fan of old classic sports movies, you’re going to love the NHL lockout.

Tonight, instead of airing the scheduled hockey doubleheader that would have kicked off the season, NBC Sports Network will show The Fan, starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes. Not once, but twice.

Hey, wouldn’t Slap Shot have been more appropriate for what was supposed to be the NHL’s opening night?

In upcoming weeks, expect to see The Natural, Rocky, Rudy, and whatever else NBCSN can dig up in its vault.

The NHL stoppage (Note: Illustraton by Nate Beeler of Columbus Dispatch) couldn’t come at a worse time for NBCSN. After enjoying a terrific run during the Olympics, the network has had a dearth of live programming from Monday through Friday.

That would have changed with hockey starting. NBCSN is supposed to air games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with Wednesday being exclusive. A Sunday night package returns after Jan. 1.

All told, NBC and NBCSN were scheduled to air more than 100 regular-season games. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case with the current labor situation.

How is NBCSN going to fill the void? Here’s the official comment:

“It’s unfortunate that the lockout is causing the cancellation of games from our schedule. In the interim, we have a large amount of quality live-event programming, including soccer, boxing, college hockey and college basketball, that will air in place of NHL games. We look forward to presenting the NHL to its fans as soon as the labor situation is resolved.”

Indeed, you can get your Pierre McGuire fix on Friday night. He and Dave Strader will be on call for the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City Friday and Saturday. It features Notre Dame, Maine, Army and Nebraska-Omaha.

Technically, it’s hockey, but it’s not the same as what was on tap for Friday night: New York Rangers at Los Angeles, with the Stanley Cup banner being raised in the Staples Center.

The post-Olympics period hasn’t been kind to the NBCSN. John Ourand of Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal reports ratings have hit “historic lows.” An August airing of Costas Live attracted only 40,000 viewers. Hard to believe.

NBCSN also failed to land a portion of the new Major League Baseball TV deal. Regardless of the costs, I thought the network needed baseball to boost its profile.

Usually, NBCSN could count on its old pal hockey, beginning in October. But thanks to Gary Bettman, owners and players, that window is closed for now.

While it has some replacement programming in place, it hardly has enough to fill the huge void.

For instance, instead of hockey on Monday, NBCSN will show highlights from the women’s gymastics team competition at the Olympics. On tape, naturally.








Costas interview with Posnanski: Author believes Freeh report flawed; wasn’t going to write a takedown book

Perhaps this is why Joe Posnanski is not doing a big media tour to promote his book Paterno. It would take too much out of him to repeatedly defend a coach nobody wants to hear being defended.

Posnanski appears Wednesday on Costas Tonight (NBC Sports Network, 9 p.m. ET). The 90-Minute Show Includes Costas’ full November 2011 interview with Jerry Sandusky from Rock Center with Brian Williams with never-before-seen footage.

Posnanski has done limited interviews since release of the book last week. You can see why from the Costas interview. There are tough questions to be answered.

Here are some of the more interesting segments.

On the Freeh Report being flawed:

Costas: “Without getting bogged down in the particulars, this is the essence of Louis Freeh, former FBI director‘s report. The conclusion: In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, Paterno, among others, but again Paterno is the figure that the public gravitates toward here, repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from authorities, the university’s trustees, the Penn State community and the public. If that is true, as Freeh concluded, it is indefensible.”

Posnanski: “Absolutely”

Costas: “You don’t believe that though.”

Posnanski: “I don’t believe that, no. I honestly don’t. I honestly believe that what Louis Freeh did, and I have no qualms with the Louis Freeh report, he had his goals and his role in this thing.”

Costas: “Well if you don’t think that’s true, you must have qualms with his report.”

Posnanski: “He didn’t talk to Tim Curley; he didn’t talk to Gary Schultz; he didn’t talk to Joe Paterno; he didn’t talk to Jerry Sandusky; he didn’t talk to Tom Harmon; he didn’t talk to Mike McQueary. He didn’t talk to any of the major players in this and I think, I understand why he went to those conclusions, and he did, but I believe the report is very incomplete and I do believe that as things come out, it’s going to emerge that some of the people who wrote some of the emails and so on are going to say that everything has been misspoken.”

“My feeling again is, and I’m really not looking to dodge because there are so many things that we don’t understand and hard to know, but I have many of the same facts that I reported on my own that are in the Freeh report – he jumped to conclusions that I cannot jump to. I mean, I jump to definitely there was a sense that Joe Paterno knew more than he suggested; there’s definitely a sense that Joe Paterno should have done more. But the cover up, the idea that he was actively following it, these sorts of things, I think they’re still, to me, they’re still up in the air.”

On the tough reviews for the book:

Costas: “Obviously there has been mixed reaction to the book. Among the reviews we’ve seen so far, this is the most extreme, Paul Campos at salon.com, ‘Paterno is a disgraceful book and a minor literary crime. To say Posnanski botches his journalistic and literary opportunity is akin to saying that the Titanic’s maiden voyage might have gone more smoothly.’ Let’s concede that that’s at one end, what criticism somewhere towards the middle of that, do you concede correct or fair?”

Posnanski: “I kind of felt like those guys in Spinal Tap there when you were reading that review. I think this is a book that as people get away from this, and are less emotional about it; they’ll see what I was trying to do in this book. I think that some people see it now, fortunately. But I think as time goes on and as people get less emotional about it, a lot of people who have written reviews, frankly, came in with the same opinion that they went out with. I’ve been, as you know, taking a lot of hits long before the book came out.”

On his feelings about Paterno:

Costas: “(According to public opinion) the only acceptable take is that Paterno was fully culpable in the most extreme interpretation, and that he was, prior to that, a fraud and a hypocrite and this doesn’t just invalidate the good he may have done, it exposes that good as a fraud.”

Posnanski: “Exactly, and I think that’s what certain people wanted. That’s not the story, that’s not the book. I wasn’t going to write THAT book. Somebody else can if they want. I wrote the honest book, the book that I believe is true. I believe that I had better access than I’ll ever get again for a book and I believe that I used it as well as I could.”

Costas: “What did you come away thinking? What is your bottom line on Joe Paterno?”

Posnanski: “I think really what I come away with is what a complicated life it was and what a big life it was.”

Costas: “Do you view him as a good man who made a tragic mistake, be it of omission or commission? Or is he less of a good man because of that mistake?”

Posnanski: “It’s somewhere in the middle. That’s a tough one. I don’t want to dodge it. I think he did a lot of good in his life and I think he did make a tragic mistake.”

Costas: “At his best, was he a good man?”

Posnanski: “Definitely. At his best, I think it’s too long and too distinguished and too many achievements to think that it was worth nothing.”

Time to get real time: NBC needs to solve live issue for next Olympics

A couple of Olympics observations before we go back to real sports:


During a teleconference, I was struck by a comment from NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. He called critics of the network’s coverage “a vocal minority” compared to the “silent majority” who made up the bulk of the high primetime ratings.

Now I’m not so sure on Lazarus’ breakdown when it comes to minority and majority. And he shouldn’t construe silence for total approval.

Regardless, Lazarus has to know that the “vocal minority” likely make up a large part of the bread-and-butter viewers of NBC Sports. With the non-traditional sports viewers (women, kids) departing until the next Olympics, many in the “vocal minority” will remain to watch Sunday Night Football, Notre Dame football, golf, hockey, and other sports on the network.

The “vocal minority” clearly want to watch their sports live. NBCOlympics.com does not fill the void for people who prefer their big screen TV. In this day and age, the core sports viewers demand to see events in real time, especially during the weekend. It’s a reasonable request. Really, do we have to wait six hours to watch Usain Bolt on tape delay in the 100 meters?

The whole dynamic makes NBC Sports’ core viewers frustrated and ultimately angry. Perception is highly important, and Lazarus should want the bread-and-butter feeling good about the network’s sports division.

Frankly, the fire over the live issue only is going to get worse for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It’s already starting. Last night, I got followed on Twitter by @Boycott NBC. Its one post read:

NBC has monopolistic Olympic coverage through 2020. Boycott @NBC and let a competent network cover the Games!

I don’t think it is in NBC Sports’ best interests to take another round of getting hammered over tape-delay coverage in primetime. Too much of the narrative about NBC in London was about the live issue, obscuring many of the good things it did.

Lazarus talked about the need to be “innovative” going forward with its Olympics franchise. I’m not sure what the solution is, but NBC must find a way to deliver live coverage on its many networks along with preserving the primetime shows. Have its cake and eat it too.

It’s time for Lazarus and company to innovate. Time for them to make everyone happy, including the “vocal minority,” which as I said may not be a minority.


One thing I definitely won’t miss is the traditional bashing of NBC’s Olympics coverage. Aside from the live issue, some of the other stuff goes a bit over the top.

Lazarus addressed the criticism in an interview with Richard Deitsch at SI.com. He said:

As far as being defensive, I would say I am protective of the enterprise and  the people who have put so much into this and take pride in what they are  doing…I wish that [some of the criticism] was more comprehensive with research  or with the understanding of what we are doing and how we are doing it. I got an  email the other day from someone who said we had only shown five sports in the  Olympics. We have shown 30 sports on television and everything else is available  online. Frankly, some of the criticism was very personal and targeted and  attacked people by name. That’s reality but as someone leading this group, any defensiveness I feel is trying to protect people who are so dedicated.

Indeed, this is a massive undertaking involving 2,800 people who worked in London. NBC had to mobilize an army to pull off the 5,000-plus hours of coverage. It is an amazing feat that viewers tend to take for granted.

Was everything perfect, no? But it was pretty damn good.

Safe travels home from London.









Does new show foreshadow NBC Sports Network landing baseball? Kuselias to host evening show on new NBC Sports Radio Network

Here’s some NBC Sports news that doesn’t involve the Olympics:

Yesterday, the NBC Sports Network announced a new weekly show in collaboration with Major League Baseball. Details below, but it made me wonder if this deal foreshadows an even bigger deal with MLB?

Frankly, if the NBC Sports Network wants to be a player on the cable sports front, it has to land a portion of the next baseball TV contract. The NHL isn’t a big enough anchor. It needs baseball to drive eyeballs to the network.

Obviously, the new program is a step to show baseball that the NBC Sports Network is serious about showcasing the sport. Couldn’t hurt, right?

OK, here are the details from NBC Sports Network:

Major League Baseball Productions and NBC Sports Group today announced a deal to collaborate on a new series titled Caught Looking, which will debut Wednesday, August 15, at 9:00 p.m. ET, with a new episode scheduled to air each subsequent week on Thursdays through October 4. Each original episode will be one hour in length and will air on NBC Sports Network.

Caught Looking will give baseball fans an exclusive look inside a specific weekend series, as Major League Baseball Productions cameras follow players, managers and front office personnel from both teams. Cameras will follow the two respective teams as they arrive at the ballpark, take batting practice, compete and prepare for each game. A different series will be featured in each episode, as the final eight weeks of the season unfolds.

“We’re committed to developing compelling behind-the-scenes programming, and our fans have consistently responded very positively to everything we do to bring them a closer view of our game,” said Chris Tully, Senior Vice President, Broadcasting, Major League Baseball. “We’re pleased to be working with the NBC Sports Group on this project, which will provide a unique glimpse inside the inner workings of multiple clubs during the stretch run.”

“Caught Looking is emblematic of the high-quality and exclusive programming we are developing for the NBC Sports Network.” said Jon Miller, President of Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “NBC and Major League Baseball have a long history of working together and we are very happy to be collaborating with Major League Baseball Productions on this endeavor.”

On November 8, NBC Sports Network will air a special postseason episode of Caught Looking which will feature the two teams playing in the 2012 World Series.


Meanwhile, the new NBC Sports Radio Network is starting to fill out its lineup:

Dial Global (NASDAQ: DIAL) and the NBC Sports Group today announced the hiring of Erik Kuselias and Jon Stashower for the NBC Sports Radio Network. 

Erik Kuselias has been named the host of The Erik Kuselias Radio Show on the NBC Sports Radio Network which will air live, Monday-Friday, between 7pm-10pm ET. Jon Stashower has also been named as the morning anchor for the NBC Sports Radio National Updates which will air live Monday-Friday, 6a-11a ET. Each will launch on Tuesday, September 4th, along with other soon-to-be-announced programming.

Erik currently hosts the NBC SportsTalk show on the NBC Sports Network and previously served as co-host of Morning Drive on The Golf Channel. Prior to his arrival at NBC, Kuselias was the host of NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and The Erik Kuselias Show on ESPN Radio. He also hosted NFL on ESPN Radio during the NFL season, and served as a host for College Football Live. In addition, Kuselias hosted the Emmy-Award winning show Fantasy Football Now. A radio veteran, Kuselias also frequently co-hosted ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in place of Mike Greenberg or Mike Golic.

Kuselias says “The opportunity to host a signature show on the NBC Sports Radio network is beyond exciting. I just put a calendar on my desk that counts the days until we launch! I believe ‘The Erik Kuselias Show’ will be a standard for the best mix of smart and fun sports talk radio.”

Stashower joins the NBC Sports Radio Network from ESPN Radio where he spent years becoming one of the most well-known sports update anchors in sports radio.

“I’m very excited to be joining the NBC Sports Radio Network”, says Stashower. “Having been there in the early days of both WFAN and ESPN Radio, I know there’s something special about a new venture taking off and being part of its growth.”

Chris Corcoran, Executive Vice President, General Manager adds, “As we kick off our exciting talent announcements for the NBC Sports Radio Network launching this fall, we are thrilled to have two tremendously talented sports minds and voices join our team and our lineup”

Rob Simmelkjaer, Senior Vice President, NBC Sports Group says, “Erik and Jon have impressive track records in sports radio, and we are excited to have them as two of the keystones of our new network.”

$1 billion doesn’t go as far as it used to; Why NBC still bullish on Olympics despite losing money

NBC announced this week that it has sold $1 billion of national television and digital advertising for its coverage of the London Olympic Games. That’s the most ever for an Olympic Games and approximately $150 million more than the total for NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But here’s the bad news: NBC spent nearly $1.2 million for the rights to the games and will incur another $100 million in production costs.

Now it’s hard to believe that you could generate $1 billion worth of advertising and still lose money, but I’m guessing network executives felt that way in the 50s when the figure was $1 million.

It’s all relative.

NBC, though, believes it actually has reason to be bullish on its latest Olympic investment. After London, the network will shell out $4.38 billion for the 2014 Winter, 2016 Summer, 2018 Winter and 2020 Summer Games.

Technically, the fees per Olympics stays relatively flat. However, the two Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia and South Korea. It remains to be seen if those games will produce $1 billion-plus in revenue.

Steve Burke, the CEO for NBC Universal, thinks the company made a good deal.

“We thought getting four games rather than two was a big, big deal,” Burke said.  “We wanted to make sure that we got the games at a price that would not cause this company every two years to lose a lot of money.  And we believe we’ve done that. The way to think about the four future games is, we get those at the same price that we get London, adjusted for the fact that some are winter and some are summer. Basically, unlike other sports where there are very, very large increases in rights fees when they get renewed, we got a chance to get four more games at roughly the same price.

“So over time, as these properties become more and more valuable in a world that is increasingly fragmented, and over time as you get some media inflation, some other things, we think we’re going to make money on these games.”

It goes beyond money for NBC. Clearly, the Olympics are part of the fabric for everyone associated with the network.

Burke talked of his anxiety during the bid process that he endured in 2011 in Switzerland. He had just come on board after Comcast purchased NBC.

“We knew that it would be a binary moment,” he said. “We would either come home with the Games, or we would come home without the Games, and as the new sort of people showing up in this building, it would have been an awful thing to come home without the Games.”

Burke and NBC wound up with four more Games. It’s a big, big deal in more ways than one.

As Burke says, “They’re very, very much tied up with the brand of NBC, the way that the, this company operates, the soul of the company, the culture of the company.”

And it all begins tonight with 17 straight days of the Olympics.




New Sports Illustrated TV program to debut tonight; Writers go on air to tell stories

As the lines continue to blur in the new media world, Sports Illustrated is taking its writers to television.

A new show, simply named Sports Illustrated, is set to debut tonight at 9:00 p.m. (ET) on NBC Sports Network.

Here’s the promo:

The program doesn’t have a host or narrator. Instead, the first installment uses SI writers Tom Verducci, John Wertheim, Jack McCallum and Sarah Kwak lending commentary and context with the subjects telling the story. Also, unlike HBO’s Real Sports, the SI writers aren’t shown doing the interviews.

From the release:

“Sports Illustrated” Presented by Lexus is, a monthly, hour-long sports magazine TV show produced by NBC Sports and Sports Illustrated. The show will deliver the magazine’s DNA of award-winning storytelling through feature segments, original reporting and commentary from SI’s trusted journalists. Emmy Award-winning Red Line Films has been tapped to produce the show.

I have to say there’s an ESPN E:60 feel to the show. The SI writers are shown in black-and-white with the camera moving in that new age way.

Obviously, the stories are wonderfully shot. You wouldn’t expect anything less from SI. However, I found it curious that they didn’t do at least one of the segments on a well-known superstar for its first show. Maybe a little LeBron, Michael Phelps, or dare I say, Tebow?

Not all that much star power here, with the exception of McCallum’s flashback piece on the ’92 Dream Team.

In an interview with Street & Smith’s Sports Business Daily, John Ourand talks with Time Sports Group president Mark Ford about the show.

It includes this passage:

Q: It sounds like it will look a lot like ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and HBO’s “Real Sports.”

Ford: You never try to duplicate what someone else is doing. We have a lot of respect for HBO and “Real Sports.” What we’re going to do is what we do well. We’re not patterning ourselves after anybody. We are patterning ourselves behind what our brand is about. We want to maintain that integrity. It won’t be a documentary. It will be storytelling, and we hope it will be interesting and exciting. Everything I’ve seen to date looks pretty good.

Here’s another video clip and a rundown of the show:


War and Peace in Jackson’s Gym: The soul of one of America’s fastest-rising sports can be found in a desert octagon where mysticism mingles with disciplined mayhem. Mike Winklejohn, a former kickboxing champion and Muay Thai champ, plays the heavy while Greg Jackson, the son of pacifists, embraces a less strident approach to teaching. Together, they have produced some of the MMA’s biggest stars. Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Jon Wertheim has the story.

The Bundy Project: The development of prized Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is quite extraordinary. He squats 500 lbs. throws a 100-mph fastball, drinks broccoli-and-barley smoothies… while under the watch of pitching guru Rick Peterson. Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Tom Verducci reports.

The Story of Alex Meyer: Training at historic Walden Pond, Meyer has overcome personal obstacles and the death of friend and former champion, Fran Crippen, to make the 10K open-water U.S. Men’s Olympic team competing in the London Olympic Games. Sports Illustrated Writer-Reporter Sarah Kwak reports.

The Point After: The Greatest Game Nobody Saw: An impromptu scrimmage ahead of the Olympics pitted Michael Jordan’s team against Magic Johnson’s in a grudge match where agendas and ego were given their fullest expression. No journalist was closer to the Dream Team than Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum, and he explores “The Greatest Game That Nobody Saw.”





Pressure to fill Ebersol’s shoes: NBC’s Larazus now squarely in Olympics spotlight

It’s finally here.

After all the countdowns, hype and preparation, the opening ceremonies are set for Friday.

Few people will be feeling the pressure more in London than Mark Lazarus. All the NBC Sports chairman has to do is step into the huge Olympics TV legacy left by Dick Ebersol.

Here’s my look at Lazarus and NBC in a story that also ran Sunday in the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune:


Mark Lazarus is an affable man, but he seems to prefer to be in the background.

The Olympics, though, will thrust him squarely in the intense spotlight created, in part, by his predecessor, Dick Ebersol.

Lazarus, 48, takes control when NBC begins its massive coverage of the Summer Olympics next week. When Ebersol resigned suddenly in a contract dispute in May, 2011, Lazarus stepped in as chairman of the NBC Sports Group; Ebersol will be on hand as a consultant in London.

Lazarus joins a select group. With a couple of exceptions (yes, CBS actually tabbed Tim McCarver to be a co-host for the ’92 Winter Games), Olympic television coverage in the U.S. has been guided by two men: Roone Arledge and Ebersol.

Arledge designed the up-close-and-personal template of getting Americans to develop a bond with the athletes during his Olympic TV days at ABC. His protégé, Ebersol, refined the approach to accommodate a seemingly endless amount of coverage during nine Olympics for NBC.

Lazarus now is charged with shepherding 5,535 hours of coverage across NBC’s multiple platforms. He ultimately will be held responsible for producing ratings and, just as important, critical acclaim for the network’s $1.18 billion investment in these Games.

Indeed, it is a daunting, if not overwhelming task. During a recent press conference in New York, which included his boss, Steve Burke, the CEO of NBC Universal, Lazarus seemed taken aback when asked about the potential for his Olympics legacy. NBC now has the rights for the Summer and Winter Games through 2020.

“I don’t think you can create a legacy with one Games,” Lazarus said. “So my strong preference is to be invited back to do the next one.”

Unlike Ebersol, who had an extensive production background, Lazarus worked his way up through the business side of the industry. He was president of Turner Entertainment Group before coming over to NBC.

So Lazarus won’t be literally calling every shot as Ebersol did; he doubled as executive producer during his Olympics run. Lazarus will consult with Ebersol, who uncharacteristically is keeping a low profile, denying media requests for interviews.

“My job is to help steward this enormous, talented team to help make judgments and decisions on where we’re going to air product and how we’re going to air product,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus did register a big first impression with his decision to make everything available live on NBCOlympics.com (with the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies). Previously, Ebersol had resisted real-time digital coverage for the marquee sports such as track, swimming and gymnastics, preferring to save it all the network’s prime-time telecasts.

However, when it comes to content, Lazarus isn’t looking to reinvent the Olympic wheel. Indeed, virtually every main cog of the NBC machine in London, from executive producer Jim Bell to host Bob Costas, was nurtured under Ebersol.

“What did I learn from Dick?” Bell said. “Oh, let’s see. Only everything.”

Ebersol taught Bell pacing (“keep it moving”), the importance of planning down to the minute for the primetime telecast, and how to change those plans when the unexpected occurs.

At the core, carrying the link back to Arledge, is storytelling, Bell said.

The Olympics doesn’t deliver a typical sports audience. According to its surveys, NBC says 69 million people who tuned into the Beijing Olympics in 2008 never watched a single NFL football game that season. Typically, women make up more than half the viewership for an Olympics.

“Storytelling is the guiding principle of Olympic coverage,” Bell said. “You’re talking about sports that most people don’t follow. So it is important to personalize those athletes.”

Ultimately, regardless of all the planning, NBC needs good, compelling stories from the competition. NBC’s rating built as swimmer Michael Phelps continued his bid for eight gold medals in 2008. NBC could use similar storylines in 2012.

“By one-hundredth of a second or less, in the second of eight gold medal races, if Michael Phelps take silver there, his teammates take silver in a relay race, then the whole storyline changes,” Costas said.  “And that undoubtedly diminishes the rating.”

Thanks to creative scheduling in Beijing, NBC was able to air swimming and other events live in primetime. That won’t be the case in London (eight hours ahead of Los Angeles).

Without live coverage in primetime, Lazarus said ratings for this year’s Olympics likely will be lower than 2008. And even with the massive amount of commercials, NBC still expects to lose money on the Games, he said.

Lazarus will be held ultimately accountable from all angles. Typically, he tried to downplay his role.

“I don’t have an individual goal on the mark I want to leave on the games,” Lazarus said.  “I think that we want to come out of this with a sense that the viewing population of America says, ‘That was a fun two weeks, I can’t wait to do it again.’”

Yet Lazarus knows—everyone knows—what is at stake for him as head of his first Olympic. If things go awry, Costas, noting that the 2014 Winter Games are in a remote part of Russia, warned Lazarus of the consequences.

“You’re going to Sochi, if only as punishment,” Costas said.










Meet Jim Bell, NBC’s executive producer for Olympics; On his plan and learning from Ebersol

Jim Bell doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who takes himself too seriously.

When I asked how it will feel to sit in The Chair–the “Ebersol chair” if you will–during the Olympics, he went into a mock panic.

“I’m going to be very nervous,” Bell said. “I didn’t think this would actually happen.”

Seriously, Bell knows he has a big seat to fill as NBC’s executive producer for the Olympics in London. Previously, that role was played by former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who personally called the shots for every Olympics televised by the network since 1988.

Now with Ebersol stepping aside and only serving as a consultant in London, it will be Bell, 44, who will be making the big decisions during NBC’s massive coverage of the Games.

He hardly is a rookie. He is executive producer of Today and has worked under Ebersol for several Olympics.

A former All-Ivy defensive lineman at Harvard, Bell talks about the challenge that lies ahead of him in London.

What did you learn from Ebersol?

Oh, let’s see. Only everything. He’s an amazing guy.

He taught me that pace is very important to the telecast. His philosophy was to keep it moving.

Also, he taught the importance of having a plan. Planning out everything to the minute, but also knowing when you have to change off that plan.

Will it be different not seeing him in the big chair?

It’ll be different, sure. I’ll consult with him every day.

Will you will bring a certain style to the telecasts?

We’ll have to see. I expect what’s worked will in the past will work well again. At its core is storytelling.

Dick used to say if you don’t make the athletes empathetic, you won’t get the women to watch. What do you think in that regard?

I think there’s something to that. I might choose the word humanity. You’re talking about sports most viewers don’t follow. So it is important to personalize the athletes.

What has it been like to prepare for the Games?

One of the more interesting aspects is that you get two years to prepare for two weeks. You could make a decision 18 months out and not be bound by it. Something will happen you didn’t plan for during the Olympics.

Seriously, how do think you’ll feel when it all begins with the Opening Ceremonies?

We’ve done this for 20-plus years. Who was the guy? Gladwell? (Malcom Gladwell) talked about the 10,000-hour rule (the amount of time to master something). Well, I will tell you there are people here who have 10,000 hours working the Olympics.

We’ve got people who know what they’re doing. It’s not about one person. It’s about the entire team.





Q/A with Bob Costas: The kid now is 60; his Olympics legacy

Feel old everyone.

Bob Costas now is 60. Yes, the NBC broadcaster turned the big 6-0 in March.

How did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Costas was this hotshot kid working NBC’s Game of the Week with Tony Kubek?

I was taken off-guard that Costas had reached such a milestone birthday. And so were others, he said.

“Yes, they’re surprised,” Costas said. “It doesn’t seem that long ago to me that the word irreverent seemed affixed to my name. ‘Irreverant newcomer.’ I went from irreverent to venerable in what seems to me like the blink of an eye.”

Age, though, seems irrelevant since the ageless Costas continues to deliver on so many different platforms. He made national news with his masterful handling of the Jerry Sandusky interview; and he’s all over the place for NBC and MLB Network, ranging from football, baseball to golf and horse racing.

Perhaps Costas is evidence that 60 is the new 40.

Next week, Costas will return to his familar role as NBC’s primetime host for the Summer Olympics. It will be his 10th Games overall for NBC, and ninth as host.

It’s an incredible run. Think about it: Given the huge ratings for the Olympics, Costas is the most watched broadcaster of this generation.

On the eve of the Olympics, I had chance to visit with Costas during a media day session in NBC.

How does it feel to turn 60?

I don’t feel any different than I did either 10 or 20 years ago. I said this before to somebody, ‘When the miles go by on the right side of the odometer, you don’t take notice. When the number of the left side clicks from 5 to 6, you do take notice.’

Yeah, I’m aware of it. I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 40. But I realize mathematically, I’m equidistant between that and 80. So the facts are the facts. I’ll keep doing this for a while, but I’m not going to be one of these people who hang on just for the sake of being on the air.

There comes a time when everybody should transition. I hope when that time comes in my place, I’ll know it before they tell me.

Nobody will accuse you of slowing down. You have a full schedule with baseball on MLB Network, Football Night in America, shows on NBC Network, other assignments, not to mention the Olympics.

One of the things that has happened to me, because I’ve been around as long as I have, and have done reasonably well, I can do things more or less on my own terms. I’m not forced to present myself in a way where someone who’s younger and trying to break in would be forced to present themselves. To get attention. To jump out of the pack.

The tone and sensibility of what I do is not that much different than it was 10 years ago when I started working at HBO. I bring that same tone and sensibility to the NBC Sports Network. That’s who I am. There are lots of people who I watch and enjoy, where I say, ‘I really like that guy. Or I like that woman. But it would be foolish for me to do it that way, And it would be foolish for them to emulate me.’

Luckily I have enough standing where I can do what do in a way where it seems true to me.

You hear so much talk about the need to reach the younger demographic. Yet so many of the top sports broadcasters are in their 60s and 70s. How do you explain that dynamic?

You have people who are well-established. They have a certain standing. You hope as you continue, you do a good job. Al Michaels is in his 60s (67). It would be foolish to say, let’s get someone who is 35 for the sake of someone who is 35. He won’t be remotely as good as Al Michaels.

How do you view your career as being defined by the Olympics the same way Jim McKay career was defined.

Even to be in same sentence as Jim McKay is a compliment. The world has changed considerably. When Jim hosted Olympics, or for that matter, Wide World of Sports, people were utterly amazed that you were getting a television transmission from Munich or Sarajevo, or wherever. The total of hours were different, the sensibility and expectations of the audience was different. There was a great sense of wonder. He was in fact, he was spanning the globe to bring you a wide world of sports of which people were not familiar.

This is a different world in which we now live. Also, a lot of what Jim did, although he did horse racing and golf, a lot of stuff he did with Wide World seemed to be related to the Olympics. So the Olympics were even more at the center of the definition of him than they are from me.

They are big thing for me. People, though, also associate me with baseball, football, and to a certain extent, basketball (from calling games in the late 90s).

What is your approach as host?

You’re looking for personal stories. You’re also looking for quirkiness too. I think any good broadcast, not just an Olympic broadcast, a good broadcast of a baseball game should have texture to it. It should have information, should have some history, should have something that’s offbeat, quirky, humorous, and where called for it should have journalism and judiciously it should also have commentary. That’s my idea. That’s my ideal. Sometimes we exactly hit that, sometimes we don’t.

How has covering the Olympics changed since your first in 1988?

I will say this, that the essence of good storytelling, and the essence of good broadcasting remains the same.  You know, there, there are a lot of things that technology has brought us, and these additional, you know, tubes of communication have brought us that are wondrous, and a lot of it is just crap.  You know, the more you broaden anything out, it’s like American Idol auditions, you let everybody audition, and you’re going to find some diamonds in the rough.  You’re also going to find people who would be lousy singing in the shower.

The essence of what’s good hasn’t changed.  The essence of how you call a ball game well, you know, there may be different camera angles, there may be different graphics, there may be ways that you can interact with social media if you’re watching it, but the way Al Michaels calls a football game is not that much different, nor should it be, because it’s perfect, than it would have been in 1970.  You know, so some of the features may be shorter because of attention span, some of where we funnel the viewership may be different, but the way in which I anchor the games, based on what they ask me to do, is not much different.

My point I think it was pretty clear, is this: that our objective, at least from a broadcaster standpoint, hasn’t changed that much.  It’s to do a good broadcast, it’s to present things well.  Now, what these additional platforms have done, is that they’ve given us opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. This isn’t an Olympic example, but I think it’s a good example, I wouldn’t expect NBC as a network to do a show like the one they do each month with me on the NBC Sports Network.  HBO did that, they were well suited to do it.  Now we come close to replicating that idea here on, on the eighth floor, that well suits the NBC Sports Network. But my objective in doing that is just the same as it would have been 20 years ago, to do a good show with good content.