2012-06-27 07:41:11 UTC
Unable to put a value on coming Olympic Games, the Canadian
Broadcasting Corp. and Bell Media have walked away from their
partnership rather than put together a new bid for exclusive Canadian
The broadcasters have been locked in negotiations for more than a year
with the International Olympic Committee for the 2014 Sochi and 2016
Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The breakup raises the possibility that no
domestic broadcaster will be willing to meet the financial terms
demanded by the IOC.
While the Games have traditionally been ratings hits for Canadian
broadcasters, they are expensive to secure and produce. Despite the
success of the Vancouver 2010 Games, for example, the domestic
broadcast consortium of Bell Media and Rogers Media lost money.
The loss prompted Rogers to withdraw from any further bids.
“This is a very high level of brinksmanship we’re seeing,” said Gord
Hendren, a president at Charlton Strategic Research Inc., a market
research group that has worked with the IOC in the past. “I can’t
imagine we won’t see a broadcaster step forward at the right price at
The partnership submitted two bids that were rejected by the IOC,
including a first pitch of $70-million and a second one that was
believed to be marginally higher. That was less than half of what the
Canadian networks bid for the rights to the 2010 Vancouver and 2012
But without the guarantee of NHL involvement in the Russian Games and
time-zone complications, it’s difficult for the broadcasters to gauge
domestic interest. The NHL expects to make a decision on the Games
some time this summer, when it begins to renegotiate its collective
agreement with its players.
“If they are getting signals that the NHL is taking a pass on Sochi,
then it’s probably not worth it at any price,” Hendren said. “There’s
a big game going on here, and that timing is clearly an issue.”
There’s another NHL wrinkle: The CBC, Bell Media and Rogers are all
interested in bidding when the rights to Hockey Night in Canada come
up for renewal in two years. Every penny spent on an Olympic bid is a
penny not in the coffers when it comes time to outbid the rival
broadcasters for a marquee Canadian sports property that could
generate years of profits for the winning bidder.
While CBC said Monday it was willing to explore new partnerships, Bell
Media said it was unequivocally out of the bidding. That mirrors the
position taken by Rogers Media earlier this year, which said
“financial priorities suggest that it’s best for us not to be
Rogers reiterated that position Monday, leaving CBC as the only
Canadian broadcaster still standing that has expressed an interest in
There are other options, both for the IOC and the CBC. The IOC has
struck innovative deals in other countries in which marketing
companies and Internet service providers secure the rights, then
sublicense them to television broadcasters on a piecemeal basis.
Earlier this year, The Globe and Mail reported that Yahoo Inc. was
also interested in bidding for the Canadian rights.
Still, director of CBC sports properties Jeffrey Orridge said the
broadcaster feels the Olympics are an essential part of its mandate to
bring Canadian stories to Canadians as he left the door open for
“Showcasing homegrown athletes as they take on the world? That’s
critically important for us,” Orridge said. “What we do is we help
promote dreams, aspirations, inspirational stories. That’s the
framework in which we’re operating in which we evaluate sports
Ann Dempsey from the Toronto Star also has a story on the CBC/CTV
Bill Harris in the Toronto Sun says Olympic viewing in Canada after
this year is up in the air.
Monika Warzecha of Toronto Life wonders if Canadians will be stuck
watching NBC for the 2014/16 Olympics.