Analysts question whether Comcast can make money televising the Olympics

It didn't take long for money watchers to come to the conclusion that Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is going to have a tough time recouping the $4.38 billion it's putting out to televise the next four Olympics on its NBC group of broadcast and cable channels. After all, the last time NBC did the job--with the Beijing games--it lost $220 million.

Even with a track record of miserly fiscal responsibility, the Olympics--for which Comcast bid $1 billion more than its nearest competitor--could be a tough chunk to chew and spit out any kind of reasonable return, said Christopher King, a Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst.

"They have their work cut out for them," King told Bloomberg News.

Of course getting a straight bottom line return on the Olympics themselves isn't necessarily the end game. Televising the events is "almost certainly a loss leader," said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Craig Moffett, who said that the "halo" effect might be restoring some luster to the tarnished NBC brand.

That brand is "tightly intertwined with the Olympics (and) some shareholders will realize that restoring NBC will require spending some money," he concluded.

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