Jan 20, 2022 - Sports

NBC readies "once-in-a-lifetime" sports double header

NBC Sports

The overlap between Super Bowl LVI and the 2022 Winter Olympics in a few weeks will be a historic sports moment for sports fans and NBC, which has the broadcast rights for both marquee events this year.

Why it matters: If the double-header wasn't challenging enough, producing the two events simultaneously in the middle of a pandemic will definitely create "operational challenges," NBC Sports chair Pete Bevacqua said Wednesday during a media event, "but I think the advantages far outweigh disadvantages."

  • "Feb. 13 will be the most complicated event that any company has ever been involved with in terms of sports broadcasting," said veteran sports host Mike Tirico, who will anchor the Olympic primetime show in China from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10 before flying to Los Angeles to host the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

Driving the news: An NBC Sports spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that announcers for the Beijing Games, including figure skating, will be calling events from NBC's Stamford, Connecticut. facility "due to COVID concerns."

  • "We'll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.”
  • Roughly 1,000 people from NBC will be in Beijing for the event, which runs from Feb. 4-20 — compared to the 1,500 that attended Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo last year, per Bevacqua.
  • Other familiar faces will be on the ground aside from Tirico. Craig Melvin will serve as a prime-time host. Lindsay Vaughn will be a prime-time correspondent.

Be smart: Executives touted a new coverage plan ahead of Beijing based on learnings from Tokyo to streamline events so they're easy to find and follow on live TV and streaming.

  • "We've really focused on making the thousands of hours we produce more intuitive, findable," said Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production.
  • This year, every Olympic sport and event will be available via streaming on Peacock's premium tier, eliminating confusion about what's digitally available.

Be smart: The overlapping events will create some unique business opportunities for NBC. The company has leveraged the proximity of the events to do cross-marketing and ad sales.

  • Super Bowl ads are "virtually sold out," said Dan Lovinger, ad sales EVP at NBC Sports Group. At roughly $6 million for a 30-second ad, rates are about 20% higher than ad rates were for NBC's last Super Bowl in 2018.

The big picture: Despite the business opportunities, the pandemic and geopolitical tensions with China will create some challenges for NBC.

  • "We understand that there's some difficult issues regarding the host nation, so our coverage will provide perspectives on China's place in the world, and the geopolitical context in which these games are being held, but the athletes do remain the focus of our coverage," Soloman said.
  • NBC will bring two China analysts, journalist Andy Brown and Chinese cultural historian Jing Tsu, to join anchors on the ground in prime time.

Bottom line: "It's one of the great days in sports. It's just never happened before," said Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of NBC's "Sunday Night Football." NBC is marketing the double-header as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event.

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