When the U.S. Olympic Committee and cable giant Comcast Corp. teamed up in early July to announce a new channel devoted to the Games which would launch next year, they promised "excitement, competition and values connected with the Olympic Movement."
They certainly delivered on all three, but not in the way they hoped. Barely a month after the announcement -- which itself was botched -- the channel is for all intents and purposes dead in the water. (See our story here.) The excitement was in watching NBC, which holds the U.S. TV rights for the games, and the International Olympic Committee explode at the news of the USOC and Comcast venture. The competition was in betting how long it would take for NBC and the IOC to crush the effort. As for the values part of the equation, let's just say this whole fiasco was far closer to what goes on behind the scenes of the Games than the spirit of peace, love and goodwill that the Olympics tries to showcase on air.
But what's boggling Company Town is how Comcast got caught up in this whole debacle. Shouldn't the nation's largest cable operator have been more savvy than to get involved in a turf battle between the USOC, the IOC and NBC over launching a cable network in the U.S.? It was obvious to everyone that NBC, which has billions invested in the Games and also has a stake in a sports channel that showcases the Olympics, would use its significant heft to put the kibosh on any potential competition. Secondly, it's no secret that the IOC and USOC also did not see eye-to-eye on this channel.
It seems clear that Comcast miscalculated the level of bad blood between the IOC and USOC and didn't realize what the blow-back would be from NBC and its sports chief Dick Ebersol, who has a lot of juice with the IOC. Also getting gold medals for misreading the situation are the USOC and investment bank Allen & Co., which advised the ill-fated venture.
People close the channel say it's not dead, just delayed. Yeah, and Michael Phelps didn't inhale.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Vancouver 2010 Olympics logo