Usual suspects

IOC already flexing its muscle to protect Olympic brand in London

Special to The Globe and Mail

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge stands under the Olympic rings during a visit to the London 2012 Olympic Village in Stratford, east London July 23, 2012. (POOL/REUTERS)

There may be no more zealously guarded brand in the world than the five rings of the International Olympic Committee. The mere mention of the word Olympics in a commercial venture can bring down the lawyers from Lausanne.

The lengths to which the IOC will go to protect its broadcast partners’ investment was illustrated Thursday in what seemed like an innocent CBC News Network interview with Mark Tewksbury, Canada’s chef d’mission for the 2012 Summer Games. In the days of old shoulder-borne camera technology, CBC (a non rights holder) would have had to go to interview Tewksbury off the grounds off the Olympic site.

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But in these digital days, interviewers need not go to subjects. So CBCNN did the interview via Skype with Tewksbury, who was in the Athlete’s Village. That led to a complaint from CTV about CBC infringing on the rights paid for by the CTV/ Rogers consortium. While it seems innocuous to outsiders where the interview subject is located, under IOC rules Tewksbury has to be offsite to talk to non rights holders– even by Skype.

CBC, which has long held Olympic rights and knows the protocol, described it as a mistake typical of the beginning of a Games. “Given Mark’s location and as CBC is a non-rights holder, it was done in error,” says CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson. “We moved quickly to pull it down and have apologized to CTV for the oversight.” CBC says that it has not been informed of any penalty for the interview.

As further evidence of the restrictions it faces being on the outside looking in, CBC is not allowed to use Olympics in its promotional material. Thus, Peter Mansbridge and the National are in London to cover the opening of “The Games” on Friday. While non rights holders can use the term Olympics in news coverage, it cannot use the word to advertise its coverage.

As well, non-rights holders are restricted in the amount of highlight material they can show and how soon after an event. So, CBC and its networks can show 3:00 of highlights, twice per day, separated by three hours. Visuals are embargoed till midnight PT. Likewise on social media, screen grabs are not allowed and, as CBC discovered, postings, blogs and tweets on websites and social media “must be in first-person, diary type format and not be in role of a journalist”.

What will be worth watching is how much the rogues of social media can get around such strictures in the next two weeks.

NBC Model Survives

These Games are being advertised as the first fully portable Olympics in history with many planning to consume the spectacle via phones, tablets and other devices. Many– Usual Suspects included– think that canned content will experience a great challenge from social media’s pervasive grip. But NBC’s executive producer Jim Bell says it’s too soon to bury NBC’s conventional broadcasting model of repackaging from earlier in the day just yet.

“For all the talk about the second screen and the digital and the live stream – and all of those are hugely important advances are priorities for us – primetime is still, also, very important to us,” Bell told a conference call Thursday. “And I don’t think that is going to change any time soon. What we have seen is incremental revenue on the digital side, which is great, but the broadcasting side is still really healthy. The appetite for big events on broadcast television still exists.”

One thing that has changed, says Bell, is “the jump in programming tonnage from Atlanta, which I think was somewhere around 170– plus hours of total coverage on NBC, to where we are today (5,535 hours).”

Blame Canada

We understand why no Canadian network wants to mount the expensive TV coverage of the Canadian Open, but is it too much to ask that the Golf Channel talking head not pronounce the country “Kanata” as happened Thursday? Then there was this bit of Matt McQuillan trivia at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club: “He’s also from Ontario, so not so far from here.” In fact, it is right here.

Nice to see the Luke Donald RBC commercials getting heavy rotation on the TV coverage of the RBC Canadian Open. Having the world’s No. 1 player in his sponsor’s biggest tournament is a real asset for RBC and worth the money they’re paying him. He’s not in Hamilton? Oh. Never mind.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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