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NBC wins Olympic TV rights through 2020

NBC Universal, the primary home of the Olympics for a generation of American sports viewers, will retain the Games through 2020 for $4.38 billion, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday.

The decision was a mild upset, given strong interest from ESPN and Fox and the recent resignation of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who has long and deep ties to the IOC.

It also was not known how far Comcast, NBC's new parent company, would go in paying for an event that lost more than $200 million in 2010 in Vancouver and is expected to lose millions more in London next year.

But the company decided it could make a strong bid work, securing the 2014 Winter Games and '16 Summer Games in Sochi, Russia, and Rio de Janeiro, as well as the '18 and '20 Games, whose host cities have not been chosen.

NBC has shown every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002. "The Olympics are in their DNA,'' IOC president Jacques Rogge said.

Comcast offers multiple cable outlets to supplement NBC's coverage, including Versus, which soon will be re-branded with NBC in its name.

Fox and ESPN, which joined NBC in making bids at IOC headquarters in Switzerland, each had promised to show every event live initially, then repackage highlights for prime-time viewing.

It was not until Tuesday NBC said it plans to do the same, altering a policy under Ebersol in which it held back some big events to maximize viewership.

"We will make every event available on one platform or another live,'' Ebersol's successor, Mark Lazarus, said. He added there still will be a prime-time program that includes important events held earlier.

As was the case for the '10 and '12 Games, NBC's bid far surpassed others. Fox is believed to have offered about $1 billion less for four Games. ESPN bid $1.4 billion only for '14 and '16, The New York Times reported.

"We made a disciplined bid that would have brought tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our company,'' ESPN said in a statement. "To go any further would not have made good business sense for us.''

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the company believes the deal will be profitable overall. He said there also was a "human'' element to the bid, knowing how much the Games have meant to the network. NBC's presentation included what the IOC described as an emotional appeal from Bob Costas, the longtime studio host.

New York Sports