NBCUniversal Chief ‘Pretty Confident’ Tokyo Summer Olympics Will Happen This Year

Comcast and NBCUniversal leaders are hopeful that the summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo later this year despite uncertainty about the feasibility of large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I believe there will be an Olympics. I hope there will be an Olympics. That’s our best intelligence at this time,” Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said Thursday during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

The Olympics represents an enormous amount of business for Comcast’s NBCUniversal every two years, from $2 billion in ad sales and sponsorship deals to programming across its portfolio of broadcast and cable networks, and now to be extended to the fledgling streaming platform Peacock.

“We’re pretty confident that the Olympics are going to happen,” NBCU chief executive Jeff Shell said on the call. “Advertisers are also optimistic the Olympics are coming.”

The summer games in Tokyo were delayed last year as the COVID-19 contagion spread around the world, which made untenable the prospect of a three-week event bringing people from all corners of the earth together for athletic competition. Last year, NBCU had sold about 90% of the ad inventory for the 2020 summer games, or about $1.25 billion.

The 2020 games, which were to have been held July 24-Aug. 9, were postponed by a year last March. The games at present are scheduled to begin on July 23, although skepticism remains if conditions will allow for typical event. Roberts’ pointed to successful containment and bubble-creation efforts by various leagues, from Europe’s top soccer leagues to the NFL and NBA in the U.S.

Roberts also noted that the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing, set for Feb. 4-20 of next year, are also around the corner.

“We’re very hopeful and believe they’ll find a way to safely and successfully have the Olympics,” Roberts said. “It would be an amazing moment for the world to come back together after all that we’ve been through.”

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