Tuesday, November 30, 2010

{alltv} USOC eyes revival of Olympic TV network


NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Olympic Committee is seeking to revive plans for a cable television network, and plans to start discussions next year with the International Olympic Committee, a top official said on Tuesday.

Scott Blackmun, Chief Executive of the USOC, said at the Reuters Global Media Summit that he also wants to discuss the network with Comcast Corp once it completes the buyout of NBC Universal, a longtime broadcaster of the Games.

NBC Universal is expected to bid for U.S. broadcast rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics. The IOC has not yet determined when it will open bidding for the rights.

An earlier effort by the USOC to create a network was undone by objections from the IOC, which expressed frustration that it had not been consulted on the initial plans.

Top sports leagues like the National Football League and Major League Baseball already have their own TV networks.

An Olympic network, if it moves forward, would likely be built around news reports, commentary, interviews, documentaries, movies, and classic Olympic footage.

The failed attempt in 2009 to launch a network was seen as further hurting ties between the IOC and USOC, following a long-standing row over Games revenues.

At the moment, the U.S. gets the single biggest share of revenue paid by the top sponsor at 20 percent and the largest share of overall TV revenue at 12.75 percent. The IOC wants to renegotiate those revenue splits.

Blackmun said the issue of the new cable network will likely be brought up when the USOC and IOC meet next year to discuss the broader question of how revenue is divided.

"Inevitably when we sit down to talk to the IOC about revenue sharing, this would have to be something we discuss as well," he said. "There are a lot of people in the IOC who understand the value a network can bring.

"In order to successfully launch a network we would need the IOC as a partner and a supporter in the endeavor," he added. "Now, whether that means financial participation or some other kind of participation I really can't say. But I think we would have a much more successful launch if they were involved."

Blackmun declined to comment on a time frame for any network, but said there was still validity in the concept and the USOC would like to engage in discussions with the IOC and its broadcast partner.

NBC has broadcast all of the Olympic Games since 2000 and all of the Summer Games since 1988. Its Universal Sports unit, jointly owned with InterMedia Partners, holds the rights to many of the individual U.S. and global sports federations' events.

NBC paid $2 billion for the U.S. broadcast rights to the 2008 and 2010 Olympics, and posted a loss of $223 million on the Winter Games in Vancouver in the first quarter.

Analysts have said the next round of bidding is likely headed lower, but Blackmun disagreed, pointing out that rights for top sports properties continue to increase.

"The pie is still growing," he said of the sponsorship and U.S. TV broadcast rights deals.

Blackmun added the USOC was weighing its whole approach to digital media as it seeks new ways to generate create revenue and an announcement about the new strategy would probably be made in the first quarter of next year.

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