After 22 years of building NBC into a sports giant known especially for its broadcasts of the Olympic Games, Dick Ebersol is resigning as Chairman of the NBC Sports Group. His exit comes just four months after Comcast acquired NBCUniversal and Ebersol acquired his latest title, overseeing the Comcast Regional Sports Networks, Golf Channel and Versus, as well as NBC Sports.
Ebersol’s departure was first reported Thursday by the New York Times. He was unable to come to terms on a new contract with NBCUniversal, now headed by CEO Steve Burke.
NBCU confirmed Ebersol’s departure within hours and announced that Mark Lazarus, currently President, NBC Sports Cable Group, would be the new Chairman of NBC Sports Group.
Questions immediately arose about what Ebersol’s exit may mean for next month’s bidding for the US TV rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games. Under Ebersol, with GE as NBCU’s primary owner, Ebersol won the bidding for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics at $2.2 billion. But with the nation in recession, NBC lost $233 million on last year’s Winter Games in Vancouver. The Summer Games next year will be in London. Both News Corporation’s Fox and Disney’s ESPN/ABC are expected to bid aggressively for the 2014/16 package, with CBS and Turner Sports also expected to make a joint bid.
As is the custom, both sides issued happy talk statements:
“Dick Ebersol is an incredible talent whose contributions to the company over the last four decades in sports, news and entertainment are unsurpassed. Dick has masterfully produced everything from the Olympics and Sunday Night Football, to the Triple Crown, NHL games and major golf and tennis events. In the entertainment world, he helped create Saturday Night Live, one of the most significant programs in television. We will miss his intellect, experience, and passion for the television business,” said the official statement from Burke.
From Ebersol: “What I have enjoyed most is working so closely with so many truly outstanding and incredibly talented people over decades of producing some of the greatest events in the world. Those relationships are what I cherish most. I have always said this business is about relationships and I have been fortunate enough to have more deep and meaningful friendships than any man could imagine. It has been a sincere privilege to tell so many remarkable stories that have inspired me throughout my entire career. Some of my favorite memories come from reading letters and talking to viewers who also have been moved by such powerful stories. I simply want to say thank you to all of those people who have touched me so deeply throughout my career.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Over the years Dick Ebersol was involved in a lot more than sports at NBC. He deserves some of the credit for creating “Saturday Night Live” as well as some of the blame for putting Jay Leno in primetime.