Ex-NBC Sports Employee: Dick Ebersol Is The Biggest Failure Of Them All (1 Viewer)

TMC1982

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Ex-NBC Sports Employee: Dick Ebersol Is The Biggest Failure Of Them All - Dick Ebersol - Deadspin

We were fortunate enough to receive a scalding take down of Dick Ebersol from a former NBC Sports employee who took "great offense" when his ex-boss called Conan O'Brien an "astounding failure." Here's his (anonymous) counter-argument.

By now, everyone's heard about Dick Ebersol's blistering critique of embattled late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien. From high atop his 30 Rock tower perch, Ebersol said it was "chicken-hearted and gutless" of O'Brien to blame "a guy he couldn't beat in the ratings," and characterized the situation as "an astounding failure by Conan."

It seems the dictator of NBC Sports is immune to any return fire, but the irony of Ebersol's comments is the definition of ego run amok.

"Astounding failure" would be a fair term for his own recent blunder. Just days before Ebersol lobbed grenades at a man already negotiating terms of surrender (talk about chicken-hearted and gutless!), it was announced that his sports unit would lose millions on the Olympics — up to and possibly over $200 million, according to parent company GE. Perhaps most tellingly, the financial disaster is not due to advertising sales in the soft economy. In fact, Ebersol himself admitted it was due to overpaying for broadcast rights, a decision for which he is ultimately responsible.

NBC under Ebersol's direction paid $820 million for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Keep in mind that Major League Baseball receives about $670 million a year in TV rights fees for the entire season and the NBA receives about $930 million a year.

While the decision to pay such a staggering sum for a two-week event can be debated — and by the way, that monstrous price tag doesn't even include a worldwide Olympic sponsorship fee approaching nine figures that also gets added to the bill — a look at Ebersol's other NBC initiatives during the last decade show an executive clearly out of touch with the changing tastes of the sports world and the world at large.

Let's take a look at some of Ebersol's recent stretch of questionable decisions:

XFL

In 2001, Ebersol started off the decade with a mind-blowing decision. Incredibly, he decided to partner with controversial pro wrestling magnate Vince McMahon on a legitimate sports league. Unsurprisingly, within weeks, the football league had set a record for the lowest primetime ratings ever on a major network. NBC's loss for the 10-week season was around $35 million.

Online

If there's any question about his lack of long-term vision and cluelessness regarding contemporary culture, perhaps most indicative is the fact that NBC Sports didn't get around to launching its own sports site until the tail end of 2006. Think about that for a second. By then, Youtube and Facebook were already major online destinations and over half the homes in the country had access to high-speed internet connections, yet NBC Sports didn't have its own site! Meanwhile, sports sites they would soon be competing with, including ESPN.com, Yahoo.com and FoxSports.com, were already drawing over 10 million monthly loyal unique visitors each. Not surprisingly, NBC Sports has never caught up.

AFL

It seems to be forgotten to history, but from 2003-2006, the major network aired a decidedly minor sport, hoping it would grow into a valuable sports property. Not surprisingly, the ratings were miniscule with the average rating around 1.00 for the four-year run before the project was abandoned. The only bright side? NBC didn't pay any rights fees. (But neither did it generate much profit.)

Universal Sports

Because there's such a clamoring for Olympic sports in non-Olympic years, NBC Sports launched a cable network devoted exclusively to those events. Ever clamor for Alpine skiing in July? They've got you covered. Wait, what? You didn't know this channel even existed? Exactly.

Notre Dame

In 2008, NBC renewed its TV contract with Notre Dame football. Though the deal is relatively cheap at roughly $9 million a year, Notre Dame's increasing irrelevance as a college football power has been illustrated in the ratings. The Irish have only finished a season ranked 10th or higher just 3 times in the 19 years they've been on NBC. Regardless of Notre Dame's storied history, NBC is essentially granting a perpetual national showcase to a mid-tier program in hopes that it will rise again. Admittedly, this is the least offensive decision on this list.

Olympics

While the Olympics have been a financial success for NBC up until this year's Winter Games, the critical reception is a whole other story. The network has been repeatedly lambasted for its coverage, showing scores of important and popular events on tape delay, including some of Michael Phelps' historic medal chase in 2008. With all of NBC's cable partners including USA, MSNBC and more participating in the Olympics broadcasting, how does this happen?

You want more? Since the start of 2000, NBC Sports under Ebersol's watch:

* Lost MLB rights
* Lost NBA rights
* Lost NASCAR rights
* Became shut out of broadcasting college Bowl games
* Hasn't broadcast a single college basketball game in a very long time

In fact, the only Ebersol decision that can be considered an overwhelming success in the last decade is returning the NFL to the network. Even with that, however, there are plenty of complaints about their stale game presentation and an overload of personalities, featuring an incredible 10 hosts and analysts on their Football Night in America pre-game program alone.

Incredibly, despite all this, Comcast is still reportedly set to install Ebersol as the head of its sports division when the NBC/Comcast merger is completed. Much like the guy he is backing in the Late Night Wars, Ebersol is lucky enough to be failing upward. Of course he's going to be on Team Leno; they're essentially the same character in alternate NBC worlds. He's got his opinion, but when you talk about "astounding failures," and NBC, Ebersol could have well been describing himself.
 

SamCdbs

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Sounds like a bitter ex-employee.

But the basic points are factual.,

NBC has grossly overpaid for the Olympics. Of course. You take sports and non-sport judged competitions, that people would not watch is held across the street, wrap it in the flag and pseudo-religious hokum, and expect people to watch. Well, it just isn't working. NBC will lose money. Which is the opposite of the goal.

NBC relies on "trashsport". Yes. XFL, AFL, other paid ventures clog NBC most weekends.

Because NBC spent the money it should have to compete for legitimate sports so GE execs can go to the Olympics.
 

Ramy

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I never have understood NBC's policy when it came to sports. They get one for a short while and then dump it.
 

salsadancer7

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It's no policy Ramy...it's Ebersol. He has been THE WORST executive I have EVER seen. ALL decisions are finalized BY HIM....and yet he continues to f**k up money losing decisions after decisions.
 

salsadancer7

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Isn't this NBC's hatchetman who's been bashing Conan O'Brian and instead sticking up for that weasel, Jay Leno?

Yeah...but in the weasel defense...from what I have read, they basically told Leno that IF Conan did not pull the numbers...he could have it back.

Either way, this Ebersol is absolutely terrible!
 

SandraC

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I am not going to defend anything Ebersol did in the business world, but I cannot imagine what it's like to live with the fact that you survived a plane crash in which your 14 year old son was killed. I have nieces and nephews, and I just do not know how you recover from something like that.


Sandra
 

salsadancer7

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I am not going to defend anything Ebersol did in the business world, but I cannot imagine what it's like to live with the fact that you survived a plane crash in which your 14 year old son was killed. I have nieces and nephews, and I just do not know how you recover from something like that.


Sandra

Do you think that is effecting his job? seriously? IF it is....he should step down and left someone else handle the reins...
 

meStevo

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Yeah...but in the weasel defense...from what I have read, they basically told Leno that IF Conan did not pull the numbers...he could have it back.

Either way, this Ebersol is absolutely terrible!

I don't know though, how well can Leno ever do if he has a lead in that has first pick of guests w/ dismal ratings.

Jay inherited a Tonight Show that did poorly until the Hugh Grant scandal which then kicked off more than a decade of good ratings. Conan has a divided spotlight, and former Tonight Show viewers get their fix by just watching the former host 1.5 hours earlier and don't need to watch Conan.

In the end, regardless of which camp you're rooting on, NBC is just fail.
 

salsadancer7

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they must be making $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ or he would have been gone long ago

Remember it's GE....NBC is not THE money maker for them. MOST of the regular programming has been a big success, not to mention syndication of other shows.

BUT, the sport division has been an utter failure.
 

SandraC

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Remember it's GE....NBC is not THE money maker for them. MOST of the regular programming has been a big success, not to mention syndication of other shows.

BUT, the sport division has been an utter failure.

Did the sports division lose money? I don't remember reading either way.


Sandra
 

salsadancer7

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Did the sports division lose money? I don't remember reading either way.


Sandra

Ebersol, the Yale-educated Connecticut native who has run NBC Sports since 1989, announced last week that the network expects to lose money on the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics, citing the bleak advertising climate last year and the burden of NBC's massive rights fee. It was a costly -- and likely galling -- admission of failure by Ebersol, whose tenure at NBC has been defined by Olympics coverage and who in 2003 convinced General Electric, which is currently in the process of selling NBC to Comcast, to spend about $2.2 billion for the rights to the 2010 Winter Games and the 2012 Summer Games in London. (The Vancouver Olympics were valued at roughly $820 million, or about 35 percent more than what NBC paid for the rights to the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.)


NBC Sports: Peacock's Next Nightmare --FanHouse
 

anders5189

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Did the sports division lose money? I don't remember reading either way.


Sandra
I don't think they are losing money overall. Remember the Beijing Olympics were a huge success, as has been the NFL. I think NBC does well with their golf coverage too. They've certainly had some good US Opens recently. Trying to figure out how much to pay for Olympics is like playing roulette. You have to guess about events that are years in the future. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong. NBC's got much bigger problems than their sports division. The Leno-Conan fiasco is really the result of the fact that their primetime programing completely sucks. All they've got are 10 different versions of Law and Order.
 

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