The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics may be keeping the same name when the competition actually happens, but the calendar will now say 2021 when athletes will assemble in Japan for the actual games. Tuesday brought word that the international sporting event will be postponed to sometime in 2012 after weeks of speculation that novel coronavirus and the global pandemic currently seen around the world would make the late June event impossible to hold.
One interesting report from before the Olympiad’s official postponement, however, explained that television contracts made it necessary to move the games an entire year, rather than into the fall when the impact of COVID-19 may have been contained. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, NBC’s television deals apparently made it impossible for a Summer Olympics to take place in the fall because of the NFL.
Speculating about a potential postponement, a source noted that NBC’s Olympics contract does not allow the games to be broadcast during the NFL season.
NBCUniversal’s contract with the IOC would also prevent it from broadcasting the Olympic Games in the fall, when the NFL’s regular season starts, one of the people familiar added. Another person close to the discussions said conversations were primarily focused on health concerns continuing through the fall.
“These are extraordinary and unprecedented times, and we fully support the IOC’s decision to step up its scenario-planning for the Tokyo Olympics,” an NBCUniversal spokesman said Monday. “The notion that we can control the timing of an Olympics at any time is wrong.”
There are certainly many other factors at play here, including whether training and other events are interrupted due to a postponement into the fall. It’s also entirely unclear whether COVID-19 will even be better under control in a few months. But NBC’s deal with the International Olympic Committee certainly colors many of the decisions the latter makes, as its plenty lucrative for both sides. Its NFL deal, meanwhile, is one of the best the football league has given its broadcast partners, and NBC would certainly not want to put either of its big-budget deals in danger in any way if it could avoid it.
The many other influences at play here certainly took precedence, at least officially, but it seems clear that those involved didn’t want the NFL and the Olympics taking place simultaneously, even if American football doesn’t have a spot on a podium in the Summer Games.