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IOC Looking at $2 Billion for U.S. Olympics Rights

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND:The International Olympics Committee is expecting three U.S. networks to bid more than $2 billion for the next available winter and summer games. The 2014 Winter Olympics are to be held in Sochi, Russia; the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro. The IOC’s Richard Carrion told The Associated Press this week that he had “already received several expressions of interest from American networks.” Deals are expected to go down in 2010.

Rights negotiations were delayed a year because of the economic collapse, AP said, but they’re expected to resume after the winter games in Vancouver, B.C. coming up in February. Carrion said the IOC could continue to wait, but conditions had improved from six months ago.

NBC has broadcast the Olympics in the United States since 2000, paying a total of $5.7 billion for the rights. The 2010 Winter and 2012 Summer Games in London alone cost it $2.2 billion. The network paid $894 million for the Summer Games last year in Beijing, losing $150 million on them, according to its third-quarter report. The network nonetheless continues to use footage from the games on its Universal Sports diginet

NBC is expected to once again be among the bidders for American coverage of the 2014 and 2016 games, particularly now that it’s potentially part of Comcast. Sports Business Daily quotes long-time broadcast sports analyst Neal Pilson saying that both Comcast and NBCU are “more than capable” of paying $2 billion or more for the programming rights. Adding Comcast to the mix creates manifold more avenues for distribution than those available to NBC through broadcasting, cable and satellite retransmission and the Internet, which NBCU especially saturated during the Beijing games. Both access and pay-per-view fees would be far easier to control and collect on Comcast’s cable systems. Comcast also has regional sports nets for auxiliary coverage of stories, such as those about home-town athletes.

The IOC’s Carriontold AP that ABC/ESPN is also likely to bid. ESPN recently landed the broadcast rights in South America for the Vancouver and London games. Fox is expected to bid, as well as CBS in conjunction with Turner.

U.S. broadcast rights are the biggest source of income for the IOC, which rankled earlier this year at an announcement from the U.S. Olympic Committee about starting a cable TV network of its own. The USOC said it expected to launch a 24/7 Olympics network with Comcast after the trials in 2012. Where that stands in the post-Comcast/NBCU merger is unclear, but the IOC was none too thrilled about not being consulted.

The Olympics represent one of the biggest events in television in terms of revenue, innovation and technological application. Vendors throughout the industry are called upon to make their gear work in situations unlike any other. The games also boost local revenues at network-affiliated stations.

The Vancouver Olympics in February are expected to draw a record audience in Canada, reports there indicate. Nearly 75 percent of Canadians contacted in a November telephone survey said they intended to watch at least some of the events. Nearly two-thirds said they planned to watch the opening ceremony Feb. 12,

More on the Olympics
July 13, 2009: “U.S. Olympics Plans to Launch Cable Network”
The U.S. Olympic Network, as the new vertical will be dubbed, will include video-on-demand as well as a broadband platform. USOC officials said the new network would “enhance” existing broadcast coverage of the games, and contribute to the development of Olympic competitors.