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Coronavirus might cancel the Olympics? No worries, Comcast says

Facebook, Mashable, Intel and other top brands are cancelling conferences and stepping out of shows, Hollywood is taking a huge financial hit, and dozens of events have been cancelled because of the global spread of the coronavirus — but for cable and broadband giant Comcast, the bottom line for the upcoming summer Olympics in Tokyo should be just fine, thank you.

“There should be no losses should there not be an Olympics,” CEO Brian Roberts said at a Morgan Stanley investor conference. Just under four months away, “the Olympics are obviously on everybody’s mind. What I know is it’s full steam ahead,” Roberts said, adding he was “optimistic” the games would still be held so they could be broadcast by the Comcast-owned NBC network.

As of now, no plans to cancel any part of the Games has been announced despite a Comcast-owned Universal theme park in Osaka, Japan, being closed the last two weeks amid fears of the virus, which has thus far killed more than 3,000 people. There are approximately 90,000 cases of infection in 70 countries and territories due to the COVID-19 illness, which is thought to have begun in the Wuhan province of China.

NBC, which has cut out non-essential travel like many other networks per U.S. State Department guidelines, has more than $1 billion in advertising commitments for its planned 7,000 hours of coverage on television and streaming. The 2016 summer Olympics in Brazil — which were held despite a Zika outbreak at the time — brought in $1.6 billion in revenue for Comcast and almost as much from advertising.

Roberts said the company has insurance in case the games are cancelled. He did not elaborate on how much the insurance would cover, however. Roberts noted Comcast’s Universal theme park business is what has really taken a hit because of the coronavirus, between the temporary closure in Osaka and a halt in construction of the Beijing park.

Comcast-owned film franchises such as Minions and Fast and Furious, like many Hollywood studio films, could see less draw at the box office in China, the second largest film market in the world. But because so much of the company’s revenue is driven by cable and broadband consumption in people’s homes, limited public events could still be a good thing. “It could actually accelerate trends we are already having,” he noted, adding “if anything, people appreciate the value of our product even more.”

The International Olympic Committee said a decision whether to hold the games would need to be made by May; Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, said the Games could be “postponed until later this year.”

Regardless of Comcast’s profitability, keeping the Olympics and Olympic dreams alive is sure to be a moment of relief for fans and athletes alike.

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Mythili Sampathkumar
Mythili is a freelance journalist based in New York. When not reporting about politics, foreign policy, entertainment, and…
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