Comcast, Aramark also have visions of Olympic glory

The main Olympic Stadium in London, where the 2012 Olympics open July 27. Comcast’s NBC Sports division will broadcast the games; Aramark will provide the food. MATT DUNHAM / Associated Press
The main Olympic Stadium in London, where the 2012 Olympics open July 27. Comcast’s NBC Sports division will broadcast the games; Aramark will provide the food. MATT DUNHAM / Associated Press
Posted: May 14, 2012

London, ho! Two Philadelphia-based companies will be seeking gold-medal performances at the Summer Olympics: food vendor Aramark and media giant Comcast Corp., whose NBC Sports division holds the U.S. broadcast rights.

Officials from both companies spoke last week about the Games, scheduled for July 27 through Aug. 12, at a meeting hosted by the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia at the Cira Centre. It kicked off the fanfare for the global event, which Nick McInnes, a deputy consul-general with the British Consulate, said could generate $35 billion in economic activity.

“This is the most powerful advertising there is,” Thomas Togneri, senior director of Olympics and sports sales for NBC, told about 150 people Tuesday night. He called the Games “17 days and nights of developing story” and said that American swimmer Michael Phelps would be a signature personality in NBC’s coverage, just as he was four years ago in Beijing. The opening and closing ceremonies, he said, will feature British rock.

Hoping to avoid the big financial losses of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, NBC is projecting $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion in advertising revenue and other economic benefits from the London games. NBC will offer many events on the rebranded NBC Sports Network, formerly Philadelphia-based Versus, to boost ratings and burnish the cable channel’s image with sports fans. That could lead to higher per-subcriber fees distributors have to pay to carry the channel, Togneri said. (The network is now based in the NBC Sports offices in New York.)

Extensive London coverage also will be broadcast on traditional NBC-TV stations during prime time and in other time slots.

Comcast inherited the London games from General Electric Co. when it acquired NBCUniversal in early 2011. GE agreed to pay $1.18 billion for the U.S. rights. In mid-2011, Comcast separately won, for $4.4 billion, the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games on NBC through 2020.

NBC has not officially disclosed details of the London programming schedule, but details are leaking out, and additional information could be announced in the next week. The NBCUniversal-owned Bravo cable channel will show tennis competitions, sources say, and NBCOlympics.com will stream every Olympic event — an estimated 3,500 hours’ worth. To access competitions on the website, viewers will have to “authenticate” themselves as pay-TV subscribers. NBC also will stream to mobile phones and tablets.

Supplying the live-stream feed won’t be NBC Sports storytellers, but Olympic Broadcasting Services, created by the International Olympic Committee. Some events will have commentary, some only video.

“Extensive research has shown that live-streaming will not cannibalize the prime-time program,” said NBC Sports spokesman Christopher McCloskey. “Good content contributes to generating buzz.”

NBC live-streamed this year’s Super Bowl and said it was the most-watched single sporting event online, while the game itself was the most-watched TV program of all time, with 111.3 million viewers.

Live-streaming is expected to generate at least $55 million in advertising revenue, NBC says, a minor piece of its Olympics advertising pie but double the streaming-related advertising revenue of the Beijing games four years ago. Most of the revenue will be from video rolls inserted into the live events. Big events in London on the live-stream feed will not be archived for replay until after they appear on NBC-TV or the NBC Sports Network.

Aramark’s Mark Offner told the Cira Centre audience that the Philadelphia food vendor will serve 70,000 meals a day during peak times. Aramark will offer 900 menu items and employ 3,500 workers in three locations, or villages.

“We will be flying in chefs from all over the world,” said Offner, director of financial planning and analysis, who participated in the Olympics bid.

Christopher S. Holland, a senior vice president at Aramark, said on a Wednesday earnings call that the Olympics Games account for about $50 million in revenue. The company had about $13 billion in revenue last year.

“We don’t do it to make a lot of money,” he said of the Olympics. “It’s a hugely complex operation that we’re very proud of and have a great track record in doing.”

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.

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