After Olympics success, Bell poised for promotion at NBC

Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:23pm EDT
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By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Jim Bell, the executive producer who spearheaded NBC's London Olympics coverage and shouldered most of the criticism directed at the network, is poised for a promotion to a larger role within NBC's news or sports division, according to four sources familiar with the situation.

These sources say Bell is well-regarded by Steve Burke, the Comcast executive who runs NBC Universal for the cable company, and is likely to move up within the next six months.

Ahead of the Olympics there were internal rumors that Bell, who also serves as executive producer of the "Today" show, was in line for a bigger job at NBC News, which is currently headed by Steve Capus. That talk petered out when Capus kept his job after Comcast reorganized the division in July, bringing in Patricia Fili-Krushel to head the news unit's business operations.

One of the sources, who is close to NBC, said Bell is probably in line for a kind of uber-producing sports role like the one Dick Ebersol - NBC's longtime Olympics executive producer and former Sports Chief who served as a mentor to Bell - played for the network.

According to the same person, Comcast is happy with current NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, who took that post in 2011, so the company may create a new position for Bell, one that would possibly have him oversee the Olympics full-time. NBC has a contract to broadcast the Olympics in the United States for the next four games in Russia, Brazil, South Korea and an unnamed host city in 2020.

London marked the first time Bell was in charge of coverage of the games, filling the shoes of Ebersol, who left NBC in May 2011. Despite flak from social media sites for having delayed airing major events until prime time, NBC's London Olympics coverage drew an average of 31.1 million viewers per night, 12 percent above the Beijing Olympics and a record for any games shown.

The strong ratings performance means Comcast, which initially expected to lose money on the $1.18 billion it paid for the Olympics broadcast rights, now expects to break even and turn a small profit.

"I think Bell's gained amazing (recognition) for what he's done at the games. By far without question this is the best-produced games I've ever seen," said Andre Mika, a marketing executive and former sports producer who directed NBC's HD broadcast of the Athens Olympics in 2004.   Continued...