With seven months to go until the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Comcast-owned NBC on Tuesday made a few headlines as it builds out its coverage plan.
The network announced that Molly Solomon, executive producer of the Golf Channel, has been promoted to executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production. She replaces Jim Bell, NBC’s longtime Olympics executive producer who stepped down earlier this month, and will keep her Golf Channel title in addition to her Olympics role.
Solomon has her own long history with the Olympics, having worked 10 prior Games for NBC. She was coordinating producer of NBC’s prime-time broadcasts during the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and the Opening Ceremony broadcast. Now she has one of the biggest and highest-profile jobs at the company.
“My first job out of college nearly 30 years ago was as an Olympic researcher," Solomon said. “I know the requirements of this role. It’s very familiar. ... I think we’re fortunate that the Olympics, it’s not a property that’s broken or needs to be fixed, right? All the pieces are in place.”
One of the reasons the property isn’t broken is NBC’s willingness to stream every event live online, no matter the sport or what time it’s happening. But for as popular as the streaming is, there’s one hitch: You have to have a pay-TV subscription to access it.
Back in July, NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel told The Inquirer that next summer’s live streaming will again require TV provider authentication. The only exception will be a portion of prime-time coverage simulcast on Twitter.
“The Olympics lives within the cable ecosystem and it has been thriving, so I don’t see that changing," Zenkel said.
Two months later, though, Zenkel told The Hollywood Reporter that NBCUniversal’s new company-wide streaming platform, Peacock, will have some Olympics content. He expanded on the remark somewhat on Tuesday, saying: "There are plans, but the plans are still in the works, to bring some content from the Olympics to Peacock in the wake of the launch in April [of 2020].
Did that signal a change in strategy? No, Zenkel said. Asked whether Peacock will have live event streaming, Zenkel said it will not.
“There is no change,” Zenkel said. “What I said is there will be content; the form of that content will be disclosed in due course. But no, we of course will not change the dynamic of the Olympics’ relationship with the cable ecosystem.”
While the nature of NBC’s Olympics live streaming isn’t going to change much, there might be some changes coming to the tone of the network’s coverage.
Devoted Olympics fans might still remember when NBC Olympics chief marketing officer John Miller said ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro that “the people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey.”
“Well, it’s very interesting, you know — more women watch watch the Olympics than men. It’s a very fascinating demographic,” she said. “And I don’t think you appeal to women per se. You talk about the games and tell the stories in a very authentic way, and I think you bring them in. So I don’t worry that much about gender.”