Wednesday, January 15th, 2014


Comments from Mark Lazarus, Gary Zenkel, Bob Costas, Jim Bell & Rick Cordella

January 7, 2014, Studio 8H at 30 Rock



MARK LAZARUS ON LOOKING FORWARD TO SOCHI: “February 6th can’t get here fast enough.  We are so excited, we’re getting ready to move ourselves to Russia and do the best job we can delivering the Games to the American people.  Our plan is pretty straight forward, we’re going to deliver the most comprehensive coverage the Winter Olympics have ever had.”

MARK LAZARUS ON ONLINE COVERAGE: “Every event is going to be available live online for the first time ever in a Winter Games.  We did this in London, and it was a great success for us, and for fans and viewers.  Most of the online coverage will be authenticated, and the reason is that we are moving towards a time when all of our sports, and all sports in general, are going to be authenticated in the very near future.  We believe in it and are fully supporting the model, and it’s critical to who we are.  We will not, however, stream the Opening Ceremony on February 7.  We will package that event for primetime.  We think it’s very important that we package that event with all the Russian culture and history that’s being creatively expressed, much of that program might not make sense to viewers without the context that Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira are going to bring to that.  We think it’s very important that we do that, and it’s the right model.  It worked for us in London, and it’s going to work for us again.”

MARK LAZARUS ON PRIMETIME: “We will once again emphasize our packaged primetime show.  The time difference doesn’t allow for us to be live in primetime. We will package and curate it in a way that makes it a place that huge gatherings of family and friends want to gather and get together in front of their TV.  Between that and the 12 hours a day live on NBC Sports Network, we’re in a very good position to deliver the best events to the most viewers.”

MARK LAZARUS ON AD SALES: “Where families gather, advertisers follow.  And our ad sales are at an all-time record for the Winter Games. We previously said that we’re over $800 million, and we’re going north, we’re doing quite well.  Marketers and sponsors are buying one of the very few events that gather large numbers across all demographics in front of their televisions.”

MARK LAZARUS ON MARKETING: “Our marketing plan is the biggest in Winter Games history.  (NBCUniversal CEO) Steve Burke mentioned how the whole company gets around the Olympics.  We have something called Symphony.  This is a Gold Symphony priority.  Our cross-channel activity starts Monday, January 13.  We have developed with the architect John Miller, our CMO, an eight-tier plan: on-channel, off-channel, online, in all forms of media. Whether it’s mass transit or other outlets, we will be everywhere for fans to know when to find us and how to find us and where to look for the Olympic Games. As Steve mentioned NBCU promotes the Games, all the entities of the company come together to promote the Games.  In turn, the Olympics promotes the rest of the company during the Games, whether it’s NBC’s primetime lineup, or NBC’s brand new late night lineup, as Jimmy Fallon is so excited to start, we’re thrilled that he’s starting in the middle of the Games.

MARK LAZARUS ON PROMOTING PROGRAMMING DURING THE GAMES: “We’re going to use the Olympics to talk about our sports portfolio.  2013 was a great year for NBC sports.  2014 is off to a great start with record setting numbers for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and two NFL Playoff games.  We’re off to a great start, and we have a lot more coming, and we’ll use the Olympics to let the U.S. television and digital audiences know that.  NBCSN will be in 85 million homes as of February 1.  That’s new information.  That is growth of some nearly five million homes over where it is just today.  We’ll be in the final stages of our very successful year with the Barclays Premier League coming out in March, April, and May.  We have another installment of our outdoor hockey Stadium Series, live from Soldier Field on March 1.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs are coming as well.  Our golf and Triple Crown horse racing championship seasons come on the heels of the Olympics, as well as a brand-new launch — a daily NASCAR show on NBCSN, as we build towards NASCAR coming to NBC and NBCSN next year.”

MARK LAZARUS ON NBC NEWS AT THE GAMES: “We have spent a lot of time thinking about how we’re going to cover the news. Our partnership with NBC News makes this pretty easy and also a balancing act on how we’re going to work.  We will cover any social or political issues as they are relevant to the Games from a sports perspective.  NBC News will be there in full force with all of its journalists and all of its shows to cover news items.  We’ve been doing this on an ongoing basis, whether it’s related to security, or as you’ve already seen, as it relates to the LGBT situation that is in Russia.

MARK LAZARUS ON SAFETY AND SECURITY: “The safety of our employees, our freelancers, our guests, is our highest priority, and we take that very seriously.  We have a full team of people there dedicated to making sure we are all there safe.”

MARK LAZARUS ON THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES IN RUSSIA: “It remains to be seen how it’s going to play out.  We don’t know what’s going to happen in Sochi, so I cannot predict what news events will happen in the future.  But we will cover anything that takes place during the Games.  It is part of our responsibility, and the full force of NBC News will be there to cover it from a news perspective.  Our relationship and partnership with them, and obligation to them is that that is their job and their duty.  With executive producer Jim Bell, who has a rich heritage in sports and Olympics, but also a lot of experience in news, we are in a very good position as a sports division to have someone who understands the sensibilities of both.”

MARK LAZARUS ON LINDSEY VONN’S INJURY AND ADJUSTING: “First, we’re disappointed for her. She has dedicated her life to being an Olympian, and she is an Olympic star. We wish her well, and we hope that she recovers and can ski next year. How do we adjust? We change a little bit of our promotion, we change a little bit about coverage, we look for the next story. In Vancouver, we won 37 medals. Lindsey Vonn won two of them. Thirty of those medals were won by different people or teams.  There’s a lot of depth and a lot of excitement about all sports, including the ski team, which has a lot of stars, whether it’s Julia Mancuso, or Ted Ligety, or Bode Miller, on both men’s and women’s. So there’s a lot of excitement about the team.  We will miss her.  We wish her well, and we look forward to her getting back on the skis.”

MARK LAZARUS ON COVERING INTERNATIONAL ATHLETES: “We’ll follow the same path we have. We’re serving an American audience, but we’re also serving a multi-national audience here in the States. We do a pretty good job of showing the athletes that are stars, regardless of nationality, and we’ll continue to, to do that. But, I don’t think having one or two athletes who get injured, whether they’re Americans or not, really alters the approach to how you’re going to bring the coverage to the American television audience.”


GARY ZENKEL ON SOCHI COMING TO LIFE: “I made my first trip there with a few colleagues right after the Beijing Games in the fall of 2008.  We got out of the airport and immediately went up to the mountains.  We stayed at what was probably one of maybe two hotels, woke up, took a chairlift, the only chairlift certainly in sight, to essentially walk into a hut where we saw renderings of what the mountains were going to be like.  We saw the diagrams of the venues, and we saw this very spectacular mountain village, none of which at that time existed…five years later, it has all truly come to life, and it is spectacular. The coastal cluster, they call it, or six venues that surround a meadows plaza creating an incredible Olympic park, nothing we’ve actually seen in a Winter Games before. The mountains resemble a really, really nice western U.S. ski resort with venues that kind of straddle this valley that leads up to the Alpine and the extreme park at the top. It’s a spectacular setting, the Black Sea on one side, rolls up to the Caucasus Mountains just 25 kilometers to the north. And they’re ready.”

ZENKEL ON NBC PRODUCTION TEAM: “We’re about 250 people currently in Sochi, and that number will swell to about 2,200 travelers.  We’ll be joined by about 450 Russians that will make up a team of about 2,700 NBC-credentialed employees.  The core team that is working on these Olympics that I started with back in ’92  is essentially, to a person, almost that core team that has been producing and organizing and engineering our coverage of the Olympics for these past two decades.  We’ve seen everything.  We’ve seen construction delays, and we’ve seen games with security issues.  We’ve seen games with social issues, and political issues that we didn’t agree with and were troubled by.  But what has consistently prevailed at every Olympics is that massive parts of the American audience will again reassemble for the better part of 16, 17, in this case 18 days, to watch the incredible and inspirational stories of Olympic athletes told by an incredible production team.”

ZENKEL ON NEW STARS EMERGING WITHOUT LINDSEY VONN: “It’s worth noting that there isn’t an Olympics, certainly not one that I’ve experienced, where stories and athletes don’t emerge from even our deep research that we’ve done that has truly anticipated. Stars exist, but stars are more often made and born during the course of an Olympic Games. So, it’s really not an issue for us. I think Lindsey gives you great promotional value, and she’s an amazing athlete, and an amazing story. But there are amazing athletes that are going to be in Sochi, many of which we know, some of which we haven’t identified yet.”

ZENKEL ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL STREAMING: “The digital story for 2014 is one of both technical and coverage growth. Back in Vancouver, we live streamed only two events. In Sochi, we will live stream from all 15 venues…streaming and mobile video didn’t happen back in 2010, and of course, we will now live stream the entire Olympic Games. The tablet computer — it’s hard to fathom this – but the tablet computer had not hit the market in February of 2010. It is now in the hands of roughly a third of the adults in the United States. What we saw in London is that the consumption of video on a tablet is actually two times the consumption of video on a smart phone. So we see an enormous increase of the consumption of digital video in the Sochi Olympics. We all saw, and I know you guys saw very clearly, the explosion of the social conversation around the London Games, as it really happens with respect to every event. If you think back to 2010 in Vancouver, Twitter had about 17 million users, Facebook had about 100 million. You now fast forward to today, Facebook is up to 200 million, Twitter is up to about 60 million, and the volume of either tweets or posts are eight times as much on Twitter, five times as much on Facebook, from that time to now. All of that social conversation, coupled with all of the circulation of our content through digital sources and linear television program, was really helped and fueled by the electronic ‘water cooler bullhorn’ of social media. I think it sets us up incredibly well to take full advantage, again, of our digital products for Sochi.”

GARY ZENKEL ON GOLD ZONE/DIGITAL CONSUMPTION: “Our goal is to maximize the circulation of our content, and drive up consumption.  Because what we have seen is, the more consumption of the Olympics during the day, ultimately the more primetime viewing. We think the Gold Zone is simply another way in which the Olympics can be consumed, for those who want a more lean-back experience and allow us to take you and walk you through what is cresting at that moment in Sochi, that is what this product is all about.  We are excited to see how it is consumed.”


BOB COSTAS ON THE NATURE OF COVERING THE OLYMPICS: “The Olympics are part of the culture of NBC.  And it goes beyond the Olympics.  You can see it in other events.  The way we cover the Kentucky Derby, for example, and make a two or three hour broadcast out of what essentially is a two-minute event. And yet, draw people who don’t know how to read a racing form into that event get them involved in all the peripheral aspects, and all the human interest aspects, and all the back stories, which most of that audience does not know until the day of the race.  But they’re invested.  When the horses come to the post, they’re invested in it.  And the same thing is true of an Olympics.

“You have to familiarize people with the competitors.  What are their back stories?  How did they get there?  Why should we care about them?  What is at stake here?  And to re-emphasize something that is unique to the Olympics, whoever wins or loses the Super Bowl will be back in training camp in a few months.  The Red Sox and the Cardinals will be at spring training barely a few weeks after we start these Olympic Games, just after the World Series concluded.  But, for most of these athletes, it’s at most once every four years, and for many of them, it’s once in a lifetime.  And they train and prepare in the shadows.

“Ninety-nine percent of those watching in the United States have no idea who most of these competitors, save a handful, are, until they begin to watch the Olympic Games.  Very often, what they’ve prepared most of their young lives for, plays out in the space of minutes and sometimes seconds.  That’s what gives it a heightened drama that makes it so compelling.

“For my part, to be at times the front person, not the only one, but at times, the front person for thousands of people who dedicated good portions of their lives to this, and who helped to prepare me and the other people on air for our roles, and have worked so hard and traveled the globe to prepare these stories, it’s not just an honor, it’s a responsibility to carry the ball for them.  So we’re all looking forward to that a month from today.” 

BOB COSTAS ON HOW NEWS WILL BE COVERED: “I think if anything, although obviously we have our fingers crossed that nothing happens, if anything, the prospect of a terrorist event, the controversy over the anti-gay laws, those things in an odd way have increased awareness and interest in these Games. They don’t take the place of the competition, but I think people will be curious about that. And at the beginning, we’ll discharge our responsibility in a straightforward way, because framing those issues is part of the backdrop.

“I was lucky enough to be a friend of Jim McKay, and to a certain extent he was a mentor of mine.  But, when the tragedy happened in 1972, in Munich, and Jim distinguished himself in such an exemplary way, the world was so different. There was no CNN, there was no ESPN, there was no social media, no internet.  And in fact, the full force of ABC News wasn’t there.  Jim McKay and a handful of colleagues were all the world had.  And he rose to that occasion. If a circumstance remotely like that, and we pray that nothing like that happens, but if something like that should occur, I would be part of our coverage, but I would not be the only one, as Jim was. I’d be able to rely on Brian Williams, I’d be able to rely on Matt Lauer, I’d be able to rely on Richard Engel, David Remnick, Vladimir Pozner, and others whom we have brought with us to Sochi. So, we would have a full group of people there to cover the story.  No one will ever find themselves in the position that Jim found himself in 1972.”


JIM BELL ON SCOPE OF SOCHI GAMES/STARTING FEB. 6: “With the setting being the biggest country in the world, it’s only fitting that the Sochi Olympics are set to be the biggest Winter Olympics ever. They’ve added new sports – for a total of 98 events – which appeal to a younger audience. The games are so big, in fact, that we added an extra night of primetime on Thursday, Feb. 6, ahead of the Opening Ceremony. It’s a unique opportunity for us to get to some competition ahead of time. You’re going to see team figure skating, one of the new events, the snowboard slopestyle event, Shaun White, and the women’s freestyle moguls. Those are new things for us in Sochi. To have a full night of competition before the Opening Ceremony is terrific.”

BELL ON OPENING CEREMONY: “In keeping with the big theme, I can share that it is a huge show.  It’s taking some real risks, and provides a window into what is still for many, foreign land. For these athletes, that night is really, for many of them, the signature moment of the games, a moment of a lifetime. I think given all the news that’s been leading up to these games, it’s safe to say that night, all eyes will be on President Putin. I can’t imagine a better time to express the range of emotions and topics that are going to be at play that night, trying to get that balance just right, depending on what happens. We’re also going to be getting a unique window into Russia throughout the games, through the unique eyes of Mary Carillo, who will share some of her experiences in the host country, leading up to the games.”

BELL ON STREAMING ALL LIVE CONTENT: “We are streaming everything live, all competition, live. We have the big ticket winter sports that everybody knows and has grown up with: ice hockey, skiing, skating. But they’re now surrounded by a new generation of athleticism that is very exciting. It’s a great marriage of traditional and cutting-edge competition. And it gives us more opportunities for more medals, and more powerful storytelling.”

BELL ON PRESENTING ALL FIGURE SKATING LIVE: “It wasn’t a difficult step. It was a process that we talked about, and took a big leap in London with the live stream, and wanted to continue moving forward and taking another step. Figure skating made the most sense, particularly the Winter Olympics, because it’s a lot of programming. It’s one of the crown jewels of the Winter Olympic sports. It’s great for NBC, NBCSN, and it’s weather proof.”

JIM BELL ON PRESENCE IN SOCHI AND STAMFORD: “There’s still a lot in Sochi. In a place that far away, it’s important to have a big footprint, and we sure do. But there’ll be a considerable amount of stuff happening back in Stamford, editing studio facilities…we’re definitely going to take advantage of that. I think you’ll see more of that as the Olympics progress.”


RICK CORDELLA ON WEBSITE REFRESH: “We thought about it and said, ‘What should a website look like in 2014?’ Take a look at what we did in London 2012. It looks very much like every other website out there. People come to for video, for the great work that Jim Bell and his entire team does, as well as the hosts who we put out there. We want to scream from the mountaintops about what we have, what is on right now. …get you to the content you want, as quickly as you possibly can. This time, we’ve created a ‘must-see bar’ on the left-hand side, where you’ll be able to find all of this content, each and every day. You want to come to this site multiple times a day, often, and catch up on what you missed.”

CORDELLA ON “NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA” LIVE STREAMING PRODUCT: “This is the home to all the NBC Sports programming. Over 1,500 events are on throughout the year. The same technology that we’re using today, the same technology we use in Premier League, the same technology we used for our record-setting NFL Wild Card weekend, is what we’re using for the Olympics. It’s tried and true technology. We want to make sure people know what this is. We’ll stream all 1,000 hours through this during the Olympic Games.”

CORDELLA ON NBC HIGHLIGHTS AND RESULTS APP: “It does what its name says. It Is highlights and results, as well as schedules and news. A section of this app is the Primetime Companion. It’s one of the big successes we had in London.  During primetime, there is no content being streamed, everything is dark in Sochi. You’re able to pull this up, and with the surface up, all the content we have produced, at the right time. If Lolo Jones is ready to go down the bobsled, we can surface up her Beijing run. We can surface up her London run…the profile that was run years ago, to put it at your fingertips, at the exact right time. This is all produced by our team back in Stamford.”

CORDELLA ON OLYMPIC NEWS DESK: “One of the things I’m most excited about — and it is a bit different this time — is the original programming. We’ll have an Olympic News Desk, and all of this is happening back in Stamford. The news desk, periodic updates throughout the day, what’s happening in Sochi.”

CORDELLA ON OLYMPIC ICE: “Olympic Ice is a half-hour program that runs on days of figure skating. Fifteen days, each day around 5:30 p.m. ET, we’ll release this piece of content. Sarah Hughes will serve as an analyst on it.”

CORDELLA ON GOLD ZONE: “I’m most excited about is the Gold Zone…stealing a little bit of what the Red Zone is for the NFL, a whip-around show bringing you from event to event, live look-ins, analysis. It’s serving the fan that doesn’t necessarily know where to go. It’s saying, ‘This is important now, take a look what’s happening.’”

CORDELLA ON LONDON STREAMING NUMBERS: “The numbers that we had for London were mind-blowing. We had 20 million hours of streams. We did 186 million streams.  For the Gold Medal women’s soccer game, there were 700,000 concurrently watching.”