POSTED: January 7th 2011

IOC looking for record Olympics television rights deal with four Games

The Executive Board will be meeting next week at the IOC headquarters / lake images
The Executive Board will be meeting next week at the IOC headquarters / lake images

JOHN GOODBODY / Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jan 7: The race to sign the biggest international TV rights deal is about to start. Underpinning the finances of the Summer and Winter Olympics have always been the contracts with the US networks, whose intense rivalry and fascination with the events have led to the massive hike in fees in recent years. In 1984, the Los Angeles Games brought in $287 million; in Beijing this had risen to $1,715 million. 

Usually, the Games are marketed in pairs, one Summer and one Winter, such as the $2.2 billion paid by NBC for the 2010 and 2012 Games. However, what makes the forthcoming bids particularly interesting is that they could be for four Olympics, those of the 2016 and 2020 Summer and the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games. The decision of whether to bundle all four Games is expected to be made by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), when it meets in Lausanne, Switzerland next week.        

Richard Carrion, the Puerto Rican board member who is responsible for TV negotiations in the United States, said that he backed the suggestion, which has the advantage for the IOC of providing financial stability, while also allowing the winning US TV company to establish itself as the ‘Olympic Channel’. In  recent years, this has always been NBC.

 However, NBC is being taken over by Comcast Corp, the US cable company, and it is not known just how committed Comcast is to the Olympics. In addition, organisations, such as Fox and ESPN,  have maintained their interest in once again bidding for the Olympics. They have asked the IOC about the possibility of securing the rights for four Games. Fox and ESPN have been especially eager for a four Games deal, partly because they could thedn establish their credentials for covering the Games.

The IOC has delayed the US negotiations for nearly 15 months because the income from advertising plunged in the recession.  The 2010 Winter Games, held in the favourable time zone for the US market of Vancouver, proved a loss in revenue for NBC of more than $220 million. This was despite the fact that this week, Sports Media Watch reported that 18 of the top 100 most viewed sports programmes in the United States in 2010 was at those Games, headed by the Opening Ceremony which attracted an audience of more than 32 million, with the final of the ice-hockey between Canada v. USA attracting 27.6 million.

Although the Olympic venues for 2014 (Sochi) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro) are already known, those for 2018 and 2020 have yet to be decided and none is likely to be on the American continent, which would greatly help TV ratings.

It is slightly a ‘leap in the dark’ for both the IOC, because the value of the 2018 and 2020 Games may rise in the next few years, and also the American companies, because the value may fall and also because they don’t know the location of two Games. However, this has been done before. In 1995, the IOC concluded a five-Games package with NBC of about $3.5 billion.

Still, this was done secretly, with no other TV company even knowing that the negotiations were even going on. This time, there will be sealed bids from the rivals and this is bound to push the value even higher. If four Olympics are bundled together, expect bids of well over $4 billion.

Keywords · IOC · TV rights · Olympics · NBC · Richard Carrion

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