By Duncan Mackay
Rupert Murdoch warned today that he will only sanction a multi-billion dollar bid from his company Fox to screen the 2016 Olympics if Chicago is awarded the Games.
Fox were expected to mount a bid for the United States rights to the 2014 Winter and 2016 Summer with Dan Bell, a spokesman for Fox, last week claiming ”the Olympics are one of the premier sporting events in the world and we will absolutely be a part of the bidding process when the time comes”.
But Murdoch claimed at a a media event in the US that News Corporation, which owns Fox, are not planning to bid for the rights because he does not believe they make money.
He said: ”We haven’t thought about it.
“But I wouldn’t think so.”
Murdoch admitted, though, he could be persuaded to change his mind if Chicago are chosen ahead of rivals Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo to host the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its Session in Copenhagen on October 2
He said: “[Then they] may be pretty tempting.
“But I imagine the bidding will be high.
“And in spite of all the propaganda and everything – I don’t want to call anybody a liar – but no one’s ever made any money out of them [the Olympics].”
Murdoch’s comments are a surprise because he has aggressively pursued Olympic rights in other countries.
His companies in Italy and Turkey have already acquired the rights to screen the Olympics.
In October last year Fox Turkey brought the rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics while Sky Italia will be showing the next four Games, starting in Vancouver next year and including London 2012.
BSkyB in Britain are also expected to be major bidders when the rights for the 2014 and 2016 are negotiated shortly following the breakdown of talks between the IOC and the European Broadcasting Union.
NBC claimed that that they made a small profit from broadcasting last year’s Olympics in Beijing but have never released official figures.
Murdoch said: “When they’re [the Olympics] on, they do suck a huge amount of revenue away from everyone else – in a sort of profitless way.”
NBC Universal will carry next year’s Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 event in London.
It paid $2.2 billion (£1.3 billion) for those combined rights.
Bidding on the 2014 and 2016 Games is expected to begin sometime after the IOC chooses a site for the 2016 Summer Games.
Earlier today, NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker said his company would only continue bidding for the Olympic rights as long as they are financially viable.
He said: ”We’re not going to put the company in any distress to do so.”
By TRIPP MICKLE & JOHN OURAND
Michael Phelps’ performance in Beijing brought NBC massive prime time viewership. NBC paid the IOC $2.1 billion for broadcast rights for Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. Negotiations for 2014 and 2016 were been postponed until after the 2016 host is chosen.
CAA Sports scored its biggest media rights deal to date when the International Olympic Committee hired it to be a strategic media adviser.
The surprising move gives CAA Sports a critical role in the bidding process for Olympic media rights in the United States. The agency’s top media executives, Chris Bevilacqua and Alan Gold, essentially will be the IOC’s point men in the United States, meeting with U.S. broadcasters as they try to secure lucrative bids for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.
The job is the first major media assignment for CAA Sports since Bevilacqua and Gold joined the agency a year ago. Bevilacqua, who had been a partner at SCP Worldwide, and Gold, former managing director of the U.S. Open Series, have worked to build an investment bank for sports media opportunities, and the IOC relationship gives them the stamp of approval from one of the world’s largest sports properties.
The IOC’s decision to hire CAA injects an element of the unknown into the bid process for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics. The IOC previously had worked with longtime TV executive Neal Pilson for the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports, is well-known in U.S. media circles and familiar with top executives like Fox Sports Chairman David Hill and NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol.
When contacted last week, Pilson said he had not officially heard from the IOC about who was awarded the bid.
Based in New York, Bevilacqua and Gold are not as well-known. Neither is Timo Lumme, IOC director of television and marketing services, who joined the IOC in 2004 after the organization negotiated its existing rights agreement with NBC for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.
But Bevilacqua and Lumme have known each other for more than a decade, having worked together at Nike in the late 1990s. Bevilacqua was the company’s global negotiations director and Lumme was its European sports marketing director.
Sources said the IOC favored CAA because the agency is better positioned to help explore broader media opportunities for Olympic content in the United States. The IOC has designs on an Olympic cable channel — one that would take the place of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s planned effort — and it believes Bevilacqua is well-suited to help. Bevilacqua helped launch CSTV and sell it to CBS in 2005 for $325 million. So far, NBC, ESPN and Fox have all said they plan to bid; and CBS and Turner Sports have looked into whether they can partner on a joint bid.
One of Pilson’s strategies during the last negotiation was to take his pitch to the corporate parents, like General Electric, Disney and News Corp., rather than the TV networks, like NBC, ESPN and Fox. The strategy was rewarded with a knockout bid from NBC, which paid $2.1 billion for rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, and the IOC will look to increase that rights fee with CAA’s assistance.
Because of the recession, the IOC delayed the rights tender process for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics until after the organization selects a host city for the 2016 Games in Copenhagen on Oct. 2. Tokyo, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago are all bidding for the rights. Whichever one is selected is sure to have a major impact on the value the IOC receives for rights.
Should Chicago win, networks would be willing to pay a larger fee, betting a domestic Games would deliver huge ratings. Rio also could generate a considerable fee because its time zone would allow most events to be aired live in prime time in the U.S. Tokyo and Madrid, however, would present more challenges for U.S. broadcasters, who would have trouble showing live action during prime time.
After a city is selected, the IOC and CAA Sports will have to decide if they want to begin the tender process before or after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. If they open the bidding before the Games, they risk doing it at a time when media companies are still concerned about the economy and sluggish advertising sales. If they wait until afterward, they will be making a bet that the Vancouver Games will wind up being successful for NBC.
After scoring big with its coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, you’d think NBC would have the inside track on TV rights to the 2014 and 2016 games. But ESPN/ABC will likely be a strong competitor. Without blinking an eye, ESPN outbid Fox by more than $100 million for the rights to college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) from January 2011 to January 2014.
As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, the once rinky-dink and now incredibly deep-pocketed cable network seems hungrier for the validation an Olympics would bring. “There’s no question the Olympics would continue the process of establishing ESPN as the home of championship sports and great sports,” Skipper said.
The International Olympics Committee has assured ESPN, said Skipper, that it will have a seat at the table when bidding begins in earnest for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in a still-to-be-determined host city.
To show it has the chops to handle a global event, ESPN will give its 2010 FIFA World Cup coverage the Olympic treatment. ESPN is already planning to send anchors Chris Fowler, Mike Tirico and Bob Ley to South Africa for the entire event, said Norby Williamson, executive vice president of remote/studio production.
“What we’re hoping to bring to (the World Cup) is Olympic-quality production,” said Skipper. “Not just the cameras but the feel of it. That it feels big. That it feels international. That it feels about more than just competition. It’s competition. But it’s also culture. And human drama.”
ESPN’s competitors won’t roll over and play dead. Fox wants the games. NBC is expected to go to the mat to protect its franchise. CBS is also expected to bid.
“The Olympics are one of the premier sporting events in the world and we will absolutely be a part of the bidding process when the time comes,” said Fox spokesman Dan Bell on Sunday.
While NBC did a “spectacular job” in Beijing, Skipper thinks the Peacock was both lucky and good. “You’ve got to give them credit for getting swimming at night. And you have to give it to them for orchestrating it so that Michael Phelps was a big story. Like all of us, they had the good fortune to be there when an unbelievable story unfolded, right? Michael Phelps every night. So they had a good run.”
STEPHEN WILSON - AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) — Spanish public broadcaster RTVE secured national broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics on Friday in a deal worth $100 million, another revenue boost for the IOC during the global recession.
The International Olympic Committee said RTVE was awarded the rights across all platforms, including free television, subscription TV, radio, Internet and mobile phones.
The agreement covers the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Summer Olympics, whose host city will be selected by the IOC next month from finalists Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
Financial terms were not announced, but an Olympic official with direct knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press the contract was worth just over $100 million. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because contract figures are not announced.
It’s the first time the IOC has negotiated rights directly in Spain, and brings the total in European rights fees to date for 2014 and 2016 to about $692 million.
“We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with RTVE, who have done a fantastic job for many years promoting the magic of the Olympic Games across Spain and helping to promote Olympic sports,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement.
Because of the economic downturn, the IOC postponed negotiations on the lucrative U.S. rights until sometime after the Oct. 2 vote on the 2016 host city.
TV Globo acquired the main rights across all platforms in partnership with Bandeirantes and Rede Record in what was described as a historic deal for Brazil, South America and the International Olympic Committee.
“This is an important announcement, not only for the IOC but for the Olympic movement as a whole,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “Brazilians will be able to enjoy unparalleled coverage of the Olympic Games in 2014 and 2016. The agreement also represents an important increase in revenue for the Olympic movement.”
The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. The host city of the 2016 Summer Games will be chosen by the IOC on Oct. 2, with Rio de Janeiro competing against Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.
The Rio bid committee said the agreement covers $170 million in rights fees and at least $40 million in media promotional packages.
The total fee marks a big increase over the $60 million deal with Rede Record for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The South American rights, including for Brazil, for the 2006 and 2008 Olympics went for $29.75 million.
The Rio bid committee hailed Thursday’s announcement as evidence of the strength of the Brazilian economy and advertising market.
“This was a very positive day for Rio indeed,” bid chief executive Carlos Roberto Osorio told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “During the economic downturn, Brazil was the only country that could put together a proposal this strong. It shows the economy is very stable.”
The announcement came just over a month before the IOC vote in Copenhagen. Rio is considered a strong contender with its pitch to take the Olympics to South America for the first time.
The most lucrative broadcast rights are those awarded in the United States. The IOC has postponed those negotiations until sometime after the 2016 vote due to the economic crisis.
Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman called Thursday’s deal a “new benchmark” for Olympic rights.
“It demonstrates the strength of the Brazilian market today as well as our interest, passion and commitment to the Olympic games,” Nuzman said in a statement. “This historic deal is certainly a tremendous boost to the Rio 2016 bid.”
Under the contract, TV Globo has rights to free television on a non-exclusive basis in partnership with Bandeirantes, along with exclusive pay TV, Internet and mobile phone rights. Rede Record acquired other non-exclusive free TV rights.
LAURA WALDEN & KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications
TAMPA/LONDON, Aug 17: Suddenly, it appears, directors of the United States Olympic Committee have realised the awful truth . . . that they will be handed all the blame if Chicago is beaten in the 2016 Games bid race.
That would then raise serious questions about both long-term and short-term strategy within the USOC.
The long-term issue concerns the US share of Games revenues while short-term concerns will focus on the unnecessarily premature proposals to launch an Olympic television network.
Both are provocative issues among IOC members and other national Olympic committees which may consider the only way to protest will be to vote for Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo rather than Chicago on October 2 in Copenhagen.
Advocates of the USOC’s ‘super-share’ of Olympics revenue claim this is deserved reward for bringing in the major TV revenues, from NBC, and a number of significant sponsors. Opponents say the US status as the wealthiest nation on earth means it should accept parity for the sake, if nothing else, of ‘fairplay.’
The TV network plan is confusion itself. NBC owns not only US rights to action from the Games but rights to many high profile events that are Olympic. What would be left for the USOC network because NBC would, no doubt, contest the USOC’s right to challenge it on its own high-cost territory.
New venture was seen as detrimental to Chicago’s Olympic bid
BERLIN – The United States Olympic Committee has managed to defuse another dispute with the International Olympic Committee, one that threatened to blow up on Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympic bid.
After its chairman, Larry Probst, met here Saturday morning with IOC President Jacques Rogge, the USOC announced Sunday it will hold off indefinitely on the planned 2010 launch of the U.S. Olympic Network, its television venture.
By conceding to the IOC’s demand that it delay implementation of the network until a variety of issues can be resolved, Probst has allowed the Chicago bid to stop being on the defensive as it was forced to explain the USOC’s actions to the voters who will choose the 2016 host Oct. 2.
Speaking with a handful of U.S. reporters in Berlin as the statement was being released Sunday, Probst said, “The USOC wants to do everything it can to help support the Chicago bid. If this meeting with President Rogge and the decision we have made is going to be beneficial to the bid, I think that is terrific.”
Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan applauded the action in a composed public statement while undoubtedly doing verbal cartwheels in private.
Probst also may have aided the bid by admitting the USOC mishandled the July 8 announcement of its network plans, which came one day after the IOC had sent the USOC a strongly-worded cease-and-desist letter.
“In hindsight, it probably could have been handled more effectively and more thoughtfully,” Probst said. “But as a result of conversations I’ve had with President Rogge, I think we’re on a good track.”
Probst also admitted the USOC “underestimated the intensity of the (negative) reaction we got from multiple constituencies.”
By Philip Hersh
The Chicago Tribune has obtained a copy of the letter sent by the International Olympic Committee to the U.S. Olympic Committee, in which the IOC advised the USOC to hold off on its announcement of a U.S. Olympic Network scheduled to launch in 2010 as a cable TV channel.
Below the letter is an official statement from the IOC, which echoes the strong criticism of the USOC leveled by IOC executive board member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico and reported in the story.
Here is the official IOC statement:
“The International Olympic Committee has always endeavoured to work in close partnership with the USOC. We share a commitment to provide the best Olympic Games experience possible to spectators and athletes alike. We also believe, as they do, that we should work together to constantly spread the values of the Olympic Family, not just in the United States but around the world.
“The IOC’s cooperation with USOC includes working together on Olympic sponsorship and broadcasting agreements within the United States. We were aware that the USOC had been considering a new ‘Olympic broadcast network’, but we have never been presented with a plan,and we had assumed that we would have an opportunity to discuss unresolved questions together before the project moved forward. It is for this reason that the IOC is disappointed that USOC acted unilaterally and, in our view, in haste by announcing their plans before we had had a chance to consider together the ramifications. The proposed channel raises complex legal and contractual issues and could have a negative impact our relationships with other Olympic broadcasters and sponsors, including our US TV partner, NBC.
“The IOC is seeking additional information on USOC’s plans and remain hopeful that we can work through the issues and reach a solution that works for all the many partners involved and for the American public in particular.”
IOC upset with USOC over plans to launch an Olympics TV network
By Philip Hersh and Kathy Bergen | Tribune reporters
Just as Chicago tries to ride out one storm buffeting its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, it could face another problem: possible backlash from a money-related dispute between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.
“I don’t see how this can help,” IOC Executive Board member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico said via telephone Wednesday.
This week, Chicago’s 2016 Olympic boosters unveiled a plan to meet with residents of all 50 wards in an effort to rebuild support in the wake of a controversy sparked last month when Mayor Richard Daley said he would sign a host-city agreement placing full financial responsibility for any losses on the city.
Now, Chicago’s bid faces another potential hurdle because of actions not of its making.
The IOC is upset that the USOC, which would reap huge financial benefits from a Chicago Summer Games, went ahead Wednesday with an announcement about its Olympic television network launch with Comcast, despite the IOC’s advice to wait until contractual issues were resolved.
The dispute boils down to what impact the U.S. Olympic Network will have on IOC cash cow NBC, the network of the Olympics in the United States through 2012, and to a long-standing question about marketing rights and use of Olympic marks that 1978 federal legislation granted the USOC.
In an interview with the Tribune after the IOC’s position first was reported by The New York Times, USOC Chief Operating Officer Norm Bellingham said Chicago 2016 was not involved in discussions about the Olympic network.
“If this damages the [Chicago] bid, it would be deeply unfortunate, and it is in no way our intention,” Bellingham said. “We are not trying necessarily to advance the Chicago bid, but we believe we are trying to advance the Olympic movement in the U.S. territory.”
The move is likely to have more direct bearing on the relationship between the USOC and the IOC than on the bid, according to Olympics historian Kevin Wamsley of the University of Western Ontario.
But he also thinks if powerful IOC members are angry enough, it could result in behind-the-scenes lobbying against Chicago.
“I’m sure Chicago is horrified,” he said. “I would be.”
DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic Committee’s venture into the TV business is irritating some international Olympic leaders — not exactly the reaction the Americans were expecting when they decided to create a network solely devoted to promoting the movement.
The USOC unveiled details Wednesday of the network it is forming with Comcast. The announcement came two days after International Olympic Committee television director Timo Lumme sent the USOC a letter warning that the federation might not receive all the clearance it wanted for programming and naming rights.
Among the IOC’s chief concerns are how the new network will affect the IOC and USOC’s relationship with NBC, which televises the Olympics in the United States and puts more money into the movement than any single company.
“We’re saying we should have sat down before they did anything unilaterally,” IOC TV negotiator Richard Carrion said in an interview with The New York Times.
The USOC leadership, meanwhile, had no intention of antagonizing the IOC, with which it has a touchy relationship that has become more relevant with Chicago vying to host the 2016 Olympics.
Nor did the USOC want to turn this into a rivalry with NBC: “They’re the best of the best, period,” former chairman Peter Ueberroth said.
USOC leaders sounded content on debuting their network modestly after the Vancouver Olympics, with a steady diet of archival footage, news shows and small sports coverage — nothing that would cut into NBC’s array of Olympic programming.
Still, chief operating officer Norman Bellingham conceded that eventually the new network could be in competition with NBC and its partner, Universal Sports, most notably after 2012, when NBC’s contracts to air Olympic trials expire.
The USOC negotiated with NBC and its partners in trying to bring the Olympic network to air, but they couldn’t reach an agreement. Bellingham said the IOC has long been aware of the USOC’s intentions to start a new network, something he and others at the USOC have been talking about publicly for nearly three years.
Of the IOC complaints, he said, “to say they caught us by surprise is an understatement.”
“We firmly believe that what we’re doing with this network is in the best interest of the Olympic movement,” Bellingham said. “This is something that’s going to deliver great value to them. It speaks to the ideals of the movement. There’s nothing out there that does that on a year-round basis.”
At least one IOC member agreed. Dick Pound of Canada, the former lead negotiator for American TV rights, said his country has also been looking to bring a 24-7 network to air.