Who Bob Costas
Current gig NBC Olympic prime-time host and Football Night in America host
Adweek: What's the biggest change you've seen in Olympics coverage in all the years you've been on the scene?
Bob Costas: The scope of the coverage. In Barcelona, we had some 90 hours and people marveled at that. If you look at the Olympics that Jim McKay hosted [in the '70s and '80s], the relative number of hours on American TV was miniscule compared to what we have now. And it's not just because of the multiple platforms and the additional hours of the day in prime time, but also because of the internet and NBCOlympics.com and all the ways you can tap into it, and then people sharing and commenting on it on social media. It's all pervasive; it's not just four hours a night and people gathering around the family TV in the living room.
Given Rio's TV-friendly time zone, most of the prime-time coverage will be aired live instead of pre-taped. How different is that going to be for you?
It's helpful to have experience covering as many Olympics as I do. Some of it you can prepare for. You can either have in mind what you're going to ad-lib, or in some cases you can have it written. But, in other cases it's just kind of on the fly. The traffic copping, reacting or shaping stories, or something comes out of left field—you've got to be able to do it. It's a little bit more of a high-wire act.
How concerned are you about Zika?
Everybody has to have reasonable concerns and you have to be informed. We have to ask the right questions of medical experts, not just Olympic organizers who are going to understandably have their own point of view, or IOC officials. There have been many credible medical experts who have raised concerns about it. Their voices deserve to be heard. You frame all these issues in as evenhanded and thorough way as possible before the competition begins, and then just wait and see if they impact the competition and you have to go back and address them.
In your last Olympics, you had a bout with pinkeye that kept you off the air. Are you taking any extra precautions this time?
I think the odds of that happening again are pretty small, although I'm told that viral conjunctivitis is one of the possible symptoms of the Zika virus. No special precautions beyond the normal ones that all of us are taking, given the situation in Brazil.
Do you have an idea of how many more Olympics you want to be a part of?
I'm just taking it on a case-by-case basis. We'll see what happens after this one. NBC has been nice enough to let me and the public know that it's up to me. I can stay as long as I like, as long as I can still do the job. I'll make that decision and it will come before anybody has to push me out the door. When I step aside, I'll still be able to do the job. It will just be because I feel like I've had a long enough run and it's time to do it.
NBC has Olympics through 2032. Given how fast the media landscape can change, what do you think that coverage will look like?
Whatever it looks like, I'll be viewing it from a Barcalounger, I can tell you that. Here's what it doesn't look like: "Hello everyone, I'm Bob Costas and welcome to the 2032 Olympics from Antarctica or Saturn." Whatever it is, it doesn't include me.
This story first appeared in the June 27, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.