POSTED: August 16th 2009

Relief for Chicago 2016 as USOC puts Olympic network on ice

Chicago 2016 . . . if the vote goes its way / Chicago2016
Chicago 2016 . . . if the vote goes its way / Chicago2016

LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA/BERLIN: The launch of the proposed United States Olympic television channel has been postponed in a move which will be seen as a significant step back in support of Chicago's 2016 Games bid.

Larry Probst, president of the USOC, confirmed this decision over the weekend in a meeting with Jacques Rogge, his IOC opposite number. The official reason given for the postponement was concern over issues arising with the American national rights-holder NBC.

In early June the USOC had announced plans with Comcast to launch their own Olympic TV network setting off a serious debate as to the legal impact on NBC over Olympic footage.

NBC has long been the American broadcaster and major contributor for Olympic revenues with the last rights holding commitment through 2012 coming in at around US$2.2 billion in a joint offer with General Electric.

The TV network proposal also compounded the controversy over the division of revenues which sees the USOC takes are far larger stake than any other national Olympic committee from the IOC sponsorship and US broadcast rights.

The USOC receives around 13 per cent of TV rights and 20pc of global marketing proceeds from the Games under the long-standing contract this has come under question by other governing bodies in world sports.

The issue raised the question of why the USOC would put in jeopardy the share it receives from the NBC money in the first place. Launching its own potential competitor network might seriously damage the NBC rights holding agreement.

'Full support'

Subsequently the IOC protected its primary client by taking a stand and asking the USOC to hold off on the network until all parties involved had found an agreeable solution.

Probst said: “I took the opportunity to stress our commitment to being good partners with the IOC and assured president Rogge that we will secure the full support and co-operation of the IOC before we move forward with the Olympic network.

“To facilitate a productive dialogue, the USOC has decided to delay further development of the network until we have resolved all issues of concern to the IOC. President Rogge and I agreed to meet again soon and to continue these constructive and mutually beneficial discussions."

The decision was a relief for Patrick Ryan, ceo of the Chicago 2016 bid. He said: “We applaud Larry Probst and the USOC for making a strong statement of partnership by stating that the USOC would secure the full support and co-operation of the IOC before moving forward with the Olympic network.

"It is important not only for the USOC and IOC relationship but also for the USOC’s role within the Olympic movement.”

Also, of course, it is important for the sake of the hosting bid by Chicago whose focus should be on lobbying votes from among the IOC members rather than having to fight unnecessary fires in its own back yard.

Less than 50 days remain until the IOC decides between the coherence and potential of rivals bids from Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and, of course, Chicago.

Keywords · USOC · IOC · Jacques Rogge · Larry Probst · NBC · Olympic Network · Chicago

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Laura Walden ()

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