PASADENA, Calif. -- NBC Universal says it expects to lose money televising the Winter Olympics from Vancouver next month.
NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said that while advertising sales were soft for much of last year, they have picked up as the Olympics drew near. The loss comes primarily due to the stiff rights fee NBC paid to broadcast the games, he said.
NBC paid $820 million for the rights to televise the Winter Games. That compares to the $613 million paid for the rights to televise the Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006.
Ebersol said it will be the first time NBC has lost money on the games since he began producing the telecasts from Barcelona in 1992.
The head of NBC's parent company, General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt, told investors recently that he expected NBC would lose "a couple hundred million bucks" on the games.
NBC won't cut back on its coverage plans due to the financial problems, the network said.
It remains unclear whether this financial reality will affect negotiations for the U.S. rights to televise the Olympics in 2014 and 2016. The International Olympics Committee is expected to award coverage rights sometime this year.
The bidding for those games has the potential to be a battle of media titans, including Fox's News Corp. and Disney. Ebersol said he expected the games to be awarded before any federal regulatory approval of Comcast's agreement to take over NBC Universal.
NBC Universal will televise some 835 hours of Olympics programming next month, starting Feb. 12, on the broadcast network and cable affiliates like CNBC, MSNBC and USA. Because the games are not overseas, NBC will have the advantage of many more prime-time events taking place live.
These Olympics also mark the return of Al Michaels to Olympics coverage. The veteran broadcaster, who called the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, joined NBC from ABC in 2006. Michaels will be a studio host.