• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
  • -
    days
  • -
    hours
  • -
    minutes
  • -
    seconds

Comcast CEO on the Paris Olympics, NFL Streaming, and NBA Rights

  • NBCUniversal parent also eyes resurgence in fan interest in the Olympics.
  • Company remains on the front lines of historic disruption in the media business.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is certainly no shortage of pressing issues in front of Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

Already trying to steer the nation’s largest cable carrier through a period of massive media disruption and cord-cutting, Roberts is also playing a central role as NBCUniversal seeks a revival of the Olympic movement (and fan interest in it) after record-low ratings for both Tokyo in 2021 and Beijing the following year—an effort that has been challenged by months of complications in France (but that are now perhaps easing). 

NBCUniversal’s Peacock, meanwhile, recently set a U.S. online record for a livestreamed event last month with an average audience of 23 million for an NFL playoff game. The service and Comcast overall have notably been left out of a recent, sports-oriented streaming joint venture among ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery, and the NFL wild-card game is now shifting to Amazon. But Peacock is seeing a further boost from the record-setting exploits of college basketball phenom Caitlin Clark. 

Roberts spoke with Front Office Sports following Comcast’s recent Converge event in which the company unveiled a series of new technologies, including a new internet router capable of supporting hundreds of devices and using artificial intelligence to self-heal its own network. Below are excerpts from the conversation, some of which have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. 

The last two Olympics have been highly challenged between the COVID-19 pandemic and record-low ratings. How do you see Paris setting a different course for Comcast’s and NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Olympics, particularly in light of some operational issues in France?

We’re super excited. I’ve been over there several times. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with the mayor, president, and prime minister, and the whole country is galvanized to make this the big, post-COVID return to the Olympic stage. Will there be controversies? Inevitably. Will there be global conflict? Inevitably. There always is. But the Olympics is that opportunity for 17 days to put your arms down and celebrate humanity, and that was the original concept. So while that is a lofty goal, I really hope and believe that could happen for Paris. 

They’re super excited to do this differently, such as bringing athletes down the Seine for the opening ceremony. That’s going to be an immersive experience and really cool. We were showing demonstrations of beach volleyball at the Eiffel Tower and equestrian at Versailles. So everything we’re hoping for, we’re just keeping our fingers crossed. 

What have been your subsequent impressions of the exclusive NFL game on Peacock, and what do you see as its impact?

It exceeded every expectation that we had, both technically and the impact to Peacock. It reinforced our strategy, and I was proud that the company was the leader in taking the internet to the biggest day it ever had in the U.S. That doesn’t happen every day in your career. That was a galvanizing moment for the entire company. To say we’re going to have the biggest day in American internet history, that didn’t happen by accident. 

We asked the NFL to trust us and pitched the concept to Roger Goodell and his team. We then had to make sure the whole internet was ready, and I personally spoke to everybody from Amazon Web Services to AT&T to Verizon to Charter, and everybody in our engineering team did the same with Akamai and everybody else in the whole online bandwidth ecosystem. 

It had to work. And if it didn’t, all everybody was going to remember was that it was your game. But the fact it did work—the credit goes to a whole lot of people and not just Comcast. We took the risk, and I think it will show that Peacock got what it hoped for and then some. One way or another, sports is coming to streaming. And one way or another, our company is best positioned to participate in that. While we don’t have answers to every question, I think this is a really good thing, net, for our company. 

What is the latest on your efforts to regain NBA rights?

Nothing new on the NBA. But we’re always interested in acquiring great content, and the NBA certainly offers great content. 

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA Chapter Officially Opens as No. 1 Overall Pick

Clark’s professional career is starting as a member of the Indiana Fever.

Star-Studded NBA Play-In a Potential Ratings Boon for ESPN and TNT

The initial portion of the NBA postseason features three former MVPs.

NBA’s Two Tourneys Drive Record Attendance

Total attendance for the 2023–24 season, which ended Sunday, was 22,538,518.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Inside the Most-Hyped WNBA Draft in History

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Nike
Multiple - USA Careers
NBA
Multiple - USA Careers
Dunham's Sports
Multiple - USA Careers

Calling the Masters Can Make You—or Break You

Legends are made at Augusta—as long as they do things Augusta’s way.
April 10, 2024

The Masters’ Broadcasters Take What They Can Get

During the first two rounds, ESPN’s coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET.
April 12, 2024

Lawsuit Alleges ‘Fraudulent Coup’ at Former ‘Sports Illustrated’ Publisher

A messy situation just keeps getting messier.
Sponsored

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 8, 2024

Sports Media Game-Changer? Skydance Eyes CBS Parent in $5B Deal

The two sides have agreed to a month of exclusive talks.
April 8, 2024

South Carolina’s Title Win Smashes Ratings Records in Caitlin Clark’s Finale

The NCAA title game became the most-watched women’s college basketball game.
April 8, 2024

WNBA Commish Wants New Media-Rights Deal to Double Old One

The media-rights deal expires in 2025 to coincide with the Caitlin Clark effect.
April 6, 2024

Iowa-UConn Draws 14.2 Million Viewers, Racks Up Records

The Final Four matchup was the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history. And we’re not done yet.