Ms. Jackson, if you’re Nastia

Father Scott

Thanks to a repeatedly botched cable installation, I’ve been watching an assload of Olympics. That’s a lot.

Historically I haven’t been that into it, but as I said, extenuating circumstances. I’ve found myself pretty intrigued by them this year — even events like synchronized diving and pommel horse have me weighing in like an expert.

One thing I thought last night while I was watching a re-run of the women’s gymnastics floor routine (really), was: good Lord, NBC has devoted a ton of people to this effort. They’ve got inside stories about everybody. They’ve got cameramen everywhere — so many that you can’t get a clear shot because there’s always a cameraman in the shot. Hell, during the marathon they had blimps overhead with the commentators giving history lessons. How much does this effort cost?

As the New York Times points out (via FanHouse), the better question is: How much is NBC making? The answer is: a lot.

The Beijing Games have become the hottest event of the summer, with numbers that so far have been certifiably big — far beyond the network’s expectations. The Games have drawn an average audience of about 30 million a night on NBC itself, millions more on NBC’s cable channels, 30 million unique visitors to NBC’s Olympics Web site, 6.3 million shared videos from the coverage streamed on the site and an ultimate profit that network executives project will surpass $100 million.

Late last week, the chief executive of NBC Universal, Jeff Zucker, released the additional inventory to clamoring advertisers, especially movie companies hungry to put their latest releases in front of viewers. “We don’t have any more costs, so that will go straight to the bottom line,” Mr. Zucker said.

The article becomes a little too meta for my tastes, as NYT goes on to consider the viability of network television henceforth. That’s lovely. And there’s this crazy bit of commentary:

In some ways, NBC has been lucky. There have been no significant protests and no crackdowns by Chinese authorities, and the record-breaking quest of Michael Phelps and the gymnastics showdown between China and the United States were made-for-TV successes.

There are like eight bajillion people at or involved in these games. Are we that shocked that there is a record-breaking quest, a hard-fought showdown, and a bunch of tears? Decent point about no protests, though.

Anyway, for an $894 million investment, plus god-knows-how-much in employee compensation and travel, returning nine figures is sweet. They may be botching some of the coverage — women’s gymnastics is maybe the most popular Olympic sport, and it aired past midnight, with the re-run coming at 11 on Sunday — but all in all a fine job.

Which is good news for us GE stockholders.

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