In a luxury hotel in Switzerland, the future of the Olympic television rights are being hotly contested and it's quite an intriguing story. For the media pundits who are covering this relentlessly, you probably should get your fix of breaking news elsewhere. This is more of a summary of what's unfolding and what to keep an eye on as it looks like we'll know the fate of the next two and possibly four Olympics in the coming days.
In town are representatives from Fox/FX, ESPN/ABC, and NBC/Comcast. CBS and Turner considered making a joint bid similar to their March Madness tag team action, but opted to stay on the sidelines. Television rights for the Olympics have not been up for bid for over 8 years, when NBC renewed their partnership with the IOC.
Back then, Dick Ebersol, the recently departed head of NBC Sports pushed all in with a bid of $2.2 billion. He wanted to keep the Olympics badly and thought that was the magic number to get the job done. Unfortunately, it ended up being a horrible deal for NBC.
The bid was $900 million over Fox's bid of $1.3 billion and ESPN didn't even offer up a guarantee, but instead a revenue share -- viewed somewhat as a half assed offer, but probably respectable for a cable network still building their media empire. The move ended up costing NBC hundreds of millions of dollars.
"He overbid dramatically, with the backing of NBC’s parent at the time, General Electric, and the recession hurt advertising. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games lost $223 million, astonishing for a 17-day event. Next year’s London Summer Games, which cost a record Olympic rights fee of $1.18 billion, are expected to lose at least as much, and Comcast, NBC Universal’s new owner, will have to absorb it.
Ebersol will not get a chance to redeem himself or lead NBC back to Lausanne on June 6 to the negotiation for the 2014 and ’16 Olympics. He resigned on Thursday, losing a power play with Stephen B. Burke, his boss since earlier this year when Comcast took control of NBC Universal."
Many believed Ebersol would come back strong and win the rights again, but this time at a deal that would be beneficial for NBC/Comcast and see him step away after the 2012 Olympics, passing the torch to someone else while ensuring the strong legacy and relationship between NBC and the Olympics.
Comcast, the new majority owner of NBC and known as a much more profit driven company, was vocal that they wouldn't overbid this time. It seemed to some that NBC might lose their staple property. Then Ebersol abruptly resigned and his number one lieutenant followed suit.
Ebersol built a strong relationship with the IOC and was consistent in showcasing the Olympics in a positive manner. Many of the Olympic-focused personnel at NBC were reported to be crying the day of Ebersol's announcement, a potential clue into their insight as to what would unfold with the Olympic bidding.
Ever since Ebersol's departure, it's been quite the topic among media analysts and sports fans as it's hard to really peg anyone as a favorite for the Olympic rights. You can even bet on who will win the bidding on bodog where Comcast/NBC has recently been moved to the underdog position.
Some have suggested that, with the upcoming Olympics being in not as sexy of locations and NBC having lost money on them, that the winning bid might come in lower than they did eight years ago. At the same time, sports television rights have been exploding in the last year and the growing dual revenue streams of all three companies could lead to a really large bid.
Then there are reports that although the bidding is for the next 2 Olympics, that the bidders or at least Fox, would prefer to make a bid for the Olympics through 2020. By having a guaranteed 4 Olympics instead of 2, they think they'll be better positioned to absorb set costs over time and have a better chance to make a profit. On the flip side Fox has a pretty weak stable of broadcast talent and it's hard for me to envision the Olympics entrusting 4 Olympics to unproven/lower quality broadcasting partnes like FX and other Fox cable channels.
Fox presented today and some believe are the favorite as they have the ability to increase carriage fees for channels like FX. ESPN and, to a lesser degree, Versus already get solid revenue from cable operators.
Others are keen on ESPN taking the rights. Disney is sweetening the offer by making overtures to be a corporate sponsor of the Olympics (just as GE does for NBC). ESPN also did an excellent job with the World Cup. They have the most lethal combo of ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 in addition to ESPN News to really cover and promote the games. Frankly speaking, I think I'd enjoy Bob Ley, Mike Tirico, and Chris Fowler covering the games and believe ESPN could really get ratings to all-time highs. All around ESPN has the potent arsenal to win the bid, but will they have the financial backing to roll the dice?
Then there is another camp of analysts who believe that NBC/Comcast don't want to start off their sports marriage with high profile news of losing the Olympics. NBC did an okay job with the last Olympics and would be much aided by having Versus and the various Comcast regional networks helping the cause. Still, though, I think many Americans were pissed that most of the events were taped and inexplicably the first USA vs. Canada game was on MSNBC, a channel many don't get and/or was not in High Definition.
With Versus now attached to NBC, the network now has a sports channel dying for programming and looking for higher carriage revenue and distribution. The Olympics may actually serve as the impetus for making Versus a more mainstream entity as they were unable to procure Pac-12 rights after retaining NHL rights. Unfortunately, nothing else that sexy comes up for bid for awhile so the idea that Comcast/NBC/Versus is ready to compete with ESPN may have to wait awhile especially if they lose to ESPN here. It's believed that all three networks would move to live coverage now that their cable business could support that type of coverage model financially.
What makes the bidding even more intriguing is the actual process. Each network gets 2 hours to present their vision of the games. They then give an envelope with their number to the IOC. Fox led off today, ESPN in the middle, and NBC/Comcast tomorrow. It's this type of secretive process that led to NBC blowing their load last time.
Going into tomorrow, the number of Olympics being bid on, who will win, and at what cost are still hotly debated. There really hasn't been a bidding process like this ever before.
My thought is that anyone but Fox would make me happy. My only beef with NBC was the lack of live coverage. Versus and the Comcast sports regional channels would really add programming and live events. It would certainly boost Versus as well which helps their cause to compete with ESPN. Costas and Al Michaels are is good as it gets and absolutely thrive when doing the Olympics.
ESPN though would be a new experience and one that I could trust plus I think would grow the Olympics the most.
Jay Glazer, Bradshaw, Joe Buck, Michael Strahan doing the Olympics? Yuck. The network just got pummeled for their UEFA Championship coverage. Panned by everyone. Fox butchered the BCS and has halved the audience of the World Series since they got those rights in the 90's. They may come in with the biggest bid, but I'd leave money on the table to avoid the prospects of having them diminish the audience while providing second class coverage.
We'll see what unfolds. Who are you pulling for and why?
Hindsight is 20/20 in this scenario, given the prior comments of there being no damage. I just feel that possibly damaging weather coming through is FAR more important than a soccer game, even if it is the Title game. It puts the station in a very tough predicament as to the proper avenue of information. Better safe than sorry. It isn't being insensitive as it is viewing this from a flawed perspective and priorities.
I would just like to tell you chip, that I am from Minnesota and I am in fact a soccer fan. It is not us that cannot get over ourselves, it is the fact that you are refusing to realize the growth of the sport across America. There were dozens of sports bars across Minnesota that had to watch the biggest soccer game of the year in the corner of there screens, while hearing the news anchor continuously call the game the "world cup." The least the station could have done is to move the game to fox sports network.
In response to brownsredsbucks, the storm was well south of the metropolitan area, and didn't cause any damage. In fact, some of the other local stations just showed the emergency ticker at the bottom of the screen instead of breaking in to the broadcast. I do understand that tornadoes are a very serious issue, in fact I only live a few miles from where a tornado killed a civilian and destroyed hundreds of homes, but anybody that knows how to read a radar could tell you that this storm was far less severe and affected far fewer people than the one a week ago. In fact, there was zero damage from the storm Saturday.
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@chipramsey Chip, please don't expose your own ignorance by commenting on something where you clearly do not have the facts. The MLS is now averaging more fans per game than both the NHL and NBA. You can sit under your little rock and try to convince yourself that nobody in this country likes soccer, or you can open your eyes and see that, no matter how hard you fight it, soccer has arrived in this country. Nobody is requiring you to like it, but at least don't post things that make you look completely removed from reality. If I don't enjoy watching a sport, I normally keep my mouth shut when my friends are discussing it so as not to look like a complete moron. You may want to consider that same tactic.
After what we've seen this year so far weather wise in Joplin and Tuscaloosa I think coverage like this is VERY warranted. It was a Tornado Warning; not a watch. Warning. It is the duty of the news to keep people safe. People here in Ohio were whining over Dancing With The Stars not being one. Priorities people; it is a matter of life or death with weather; not UEFA soccer.
@brownsredsbucks Like we've all said, it's not that it wasn't important information, it's how it was handled. I'm tired of people making us out as insensitive simply because we believe that the information could have been delivered just as effectively without interrupting a game for 45 minutes or belittling the viewers who were upset. Had this been the Super Bowl, nobody would question our frustration. Well.... this game was our Super Bowl. Lastly, this was a very minor storm that caused no damage whatsoever. Sometimes these news stations have to simply allow common sense to prevail.
@2Cents @brownsredsbucks I concur, the information was important but to drone on for 45+ minutes about this storm and presenting only one piece of new information in that time (new compared to the ticker when they initially broke in) was a travashamockery. The talking heads repeatedly tried to spin the information in a new way but weren't doing a great job at it.
For example - the dolt with the helmet hair said on multiple occaisions "Do the neighborly thing and go tell the people playing in the streets that a storm is coming, and go rouse the shut-ins and let them know a storm is coming." A) If people are out in the streets and can't see the hellfire and brimstone coming their way...darwinism says they deserve what they get. B) Shut-ins would likely be put in more danger by you going to their house and talking to them since they were probably bunkered in the storm-center of their house to begin with.
@2Cents @brownsredsbucks To ammend my commentary, some storms come on suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. In these situations you should do the neighborly thing. However, a storm the size of this one bearing down on you does not come on suddenly.
Also, that one new piece of information that the news team gave us was the warning being cancelled west of the MN River, and a new warning for the areas east of the river. That was important information, everything else was weather terrorism/porn.
@brownsredsbucks There is a difference between showing the FCC mandated warnings (the loud annoying beep as well as the scrolling ticker) and weather porn. This was really weather porn..