Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

NBC and the 2012 London Olympics: Unexpected Success

by Stephen A. Greyser and Vadim Kogan


"The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games lost $223 million, astonishing for a 17-day event. Next year's London Summer Games, which cost a record Olympic rights fee of $1.18 billion, are expected to lose at least as much..." wrote Richard Sandomir in The New York Times. "NBC Could Lose $100 Million On London Olympics; Ratings Not Expected To Beat Beijing" chimed in John Clarke with Forbes. Sandomir and Clarke were not alone in their damning prediction. Analysts and media put forth similar commentary following NBC's embarrassing loss in Vancouver. The media had prepared a grave for NBC as the 2012 London Olympics approached. Indeed, critics created #NBCFail to characterize their expectations. Yet, as the Games wound down, it was NBC that was smiling. Their forecast had paid off. They found that not only were the Games profitable that year, they had achieved record viewership. How could they have gone from one extreme of failure to another extreme of success so quickly? The network began analyzing factors that helped—as well as decisions that had received much criticism—so that it could begin its planning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Keywords: Success; Profit; Sports; Failure; Television Entertainment; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Sports Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Vancouver; Beijing; London; Brazil; Russia;


Greyser, Stephen A., and Vadim Kogan. "NBC and the 2012 London Olympics: Unexpected Success." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-028, September 2013.