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IOC consider 4 Olympic bid for US TV rights

7 January 2011

ESPN, Fox and the other main contenders for US television rights have shown interest in buying a package covering four Olympics rather than the usual two-games deal, the IOC's chief negotiator told The Associated Press.

The International Olympic Committee had been planning to auction only the lucrative rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But Richard Carrion, the IOC executive board member who handles US broadcast deals, said the committee was weighing the possibility of widening the high-stakes bidding to include the 2018 Winter and 2020 Summer Games.

The host cities for those games have not been selected.

All the likely contenders - NBC, ESPN and Fox, along with a potential bid from CBS and Turner - have approached the IOC about the four-games option.

Adding two more Olympics to the package could bring the total rights fee to more than $4 billion.

Carrion said he would support the idea, which is expected to be discussed at IOC executive board meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, next week.

"We realise this is a major decision going forward for any of these guys," Carrion said in a telephone interview.

"We want to make sure that they come with their best and highest (bids). I would certainly support it if they want to go to four games, and do all the way to 2020."

TV rights fees provide the bulk of the IOC's revenue, with the US share accounting for more than half the total.

About half the money goes to host cities, with the rest split among the IOC, international federations and national Olympic committees.

In the auction in 2003, NBC and parent company General Electric outbid ESPN and Fox for the 2010 and 2012 rights in a deal worth $2.2 billion.

NBC paid $2 billion in direct rights fees and GE signed on as a global sponsor.

If the IOC decides to sell the rights through 2020 and has the auction in the next six months, the networks will be bidding on two Olympics without knowing where they will be held.

The 2018 host will be chosen by the IOC in July from among three candidates - Annecy, France; Munich; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The 2020 bidding process opens later this year, with the host city vote in 2013. Bids are expected from South Africa, Italy and possibly Japan, Spain and the Middle East. Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, the committee's former negotiator of US TV rights, said the four-games package made financial sense to the networks.

"With 2014 and '16 being in higher-risk places, it might be better for the networks to be able to make the investment and hope to recoup it," Pound said, noting the 2018 Games will be in Europe or South Korea and the 2020 Olympics could be in Rome.

"There's no reason it shouldn't happen if the deal is sensible and it's adequately backed financially."

Multi-games deals have been made before. In 1995, NBC obtained the rights to five Olympics from 2000 to 2008 in a pair of deals worth $3.5 billion. Those negotiations took place in secret, without other networks getting a chance.

Stephen Wilson

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