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NBC’s Olympics production chief Bell to exit

Jim Bell has announced he will leave his role as president of the NBC Olympics Production and Programming division of NBCUniversal less than a year before the US media company prepares to cover the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Bell has spent the past year as showrunner of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and has served nearly three decades at NBCU, where he has become a senior figure for its sports coverage.

Bell was first hired as a researcher for the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona and has worked at every Olympics since, rising to oversee the whole production for the 2012 Games in London.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be the last covered by NBC’s $4.38bn (€3.88bn) rights agreement, which has spanned four games from Sochi 2014 onwards. NBC’s new $7.75bn Olympics rights deal, which runs from 2022 to 2032, will begin with the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing.

In a statement, Bell said: “Last fall, after executive producing a successful winter Olympics in South Korea and the men’s (Fifa) World Cup tournament in Russia, the company asked me if I would become the executive in charge of production for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon while I was also preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“As has been the case for my nearly 30 years at NBC, I said yes to their request, adding only that I would commit for a year and we would review the situation at that time.”

The statement continued: “The past year with Jimmy and the terrific team at the show has been a blast, and I will always be grateful for this opportunity. But after serious contemplation, I realised I did not want to extend my time at the show.

“Those thoughts are part of larger ones I have been having about my career, and what has emerged for me is a strong desire to delve into something new – to build on my experience in news, sports, and entertainment so I can broaden and deepen my leadership role in the content universe.

“Along with my Olympic colleagues, we have positioned NBC Sports for an incredible summer Olympics next year, and so I believe the timing is perfect for me to forge a new path.”

Commenting on Bell’s replacement, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal broadcast, cable, sports and news, and Pete Bevacqua, president of the NBC Sports Group, said: “Fortunately, we have a large number of experienced and talented people who have worked alongside Jim in the NBC Sports Group, and we will be making decisions about structural changes to the team in the coming weeks.”