Dick Ebersol thanks affiliates as NBC Sports is honored


As NBC Sports was inducted into the NAB Hall of Fame, Dick Ebersol accepted the honor, but used the occasion to thank the NBC affiliates and tout the relationship between a network and the local stations which deliver its programming.

Speaking at Monday’s Television Luncheon in Las Vegas, Ebersol, currently Chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, looked back on his long career at NBC, which began at age 19 and continues now that he is 62. Declaring that he has the best job in the country, he declared, “I truly am unbelievably lucky.”

But rather than talk about his own career and what the network is doing, Ebersol turned the spotlight on the affiliates, with many of their executives seated in the packed room. “It starts with you,” he said, declaring that the localism of TV stations is what draws viewers. And the other thing that draws viewers, he said, is events – such as major sports events which continue to set viewing records.

Ebersol recalled how the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain lost money for the first time for NBC. (Something which happened again this year with the Vancouver Winter Olympics.) Back then Ebersol, as head of NBC Sports, wondered whether the Olympics would be able to continue on his network.

He recalled that Cecil Walker, then President of Gannett Broadcasting, stepped up and said, “I think that we can help you.” That eventually led to a new swap arrangement with the NBC affiliates that changed the financial picture and allowed NBC to bid successfully for the next Olympic Games. According to Ebersol, it was a classic example of how the networks and affiliates need each other.

“There’s a family feeling,” Ebersol said of the network-affiliate relationship, although he lamented that “it’s gotten lost a lot in the recent years.”

Just before Ebersol’s comments, Jim Parsons of  “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS accepted the NAB Television Chairman’s Award from NAB Television Board Chairman Paul Karpowicz, President of Meredith Broadcasting.

“I’m so honored, and shocked in my weird way,” said the actor, who at 37 is the youngest person we can recall receiving the award. Parsons recalled how he grew up watching sitcoms which are now viewed as classics. “TV was like a third parent to me,” he said. “This was not wasted time,” he said, but really his first lessons in acting.