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‘No doubt’ a Canadian broadcaster will acquire Olympic rights: BCE chief

A May 3, 2012, file photo of George Cope, president and chief executive of Bell Canada Enterprises.


The chief executive of BCE Inc. believes a Canadian broadcaster will acquire the rights to the next Olympic Games even though his own company has withdrawn from bidding and no other broadcasters have come forward.

"I am convinced," George Cope said Tuesday in London after announcing a four-year sponsourship with the Canadian Olympic Committee. "I have no doubt [Canadians] will see the Olympics somehow in Canada."

The International Olympic Committee recently rejected two bids submitted by BCE's Bell Media unit, which includes CTV, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The offers were believed to be around $70-million for broadcasting rights for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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The offer was half what Bell and Rogers Media paid for the rights to broadcast the 2010 Games in Vancouver and the 2012 London Olympics.

Rogers has withdrawn from further bidding and no other Canadian broadcasters have come forward. There has been some concern among broadcasters that the National Hockey League will not send players to the Sochi Games, something that would dampen enthusiasm by Canadian viewers.

Mr. Cope indicated that Bell might still play a role in the upcoming Games. "We'll see as the world evolves any way we can support whoever ends up with it we'll obviously look to try to support it," he said.

When asked if Bell might submit another bid Mr. Cope replied: "We went with a bid with a partner, just as we'd done in the previous [Olympics], and it wasn't what people wanted it to be and so at the moment we're just really focusing on this Olympics."

Last year, NBC signed a deal worth $4.38-billion (U.S.) with the IOC for U.S. rights to broadcast four Olympics; 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020, beating out rival offers from Fox Sports and ESPN. The network paid about $2-billion for the 2010 and 2012 Games. NBC lost more than $200-million on the Vancouver Games and is expected to lose money broadcasting the London Olympics as well.

The IOC has been touting its success in attracting big fees for broadcast rights. President Jacques Rogge told IOC delegates last week that the organization expects to pull in more than $4-billion in broadcast revenue for the Sochi and Rio de Janeiro Olympics. It earned $3.9-billion in broadcast revenue from Vancouver and London.

And the IOC seems little concerned about the lack of any bidders from Canada or possible losses at NBC. "My understanding is that actually the revenue from broadcasting rights has continued to rise so no, we don't have, I think, any concerns on that score," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday.

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BCE has had a long-standing partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee. Mr. Cope declined to provide details about the value of the new agreement other than to saying it is worth several million dollars. BCE is also contributing $1-million (Canadian) to the COC's foundation to fund a variety of athlete development programs.

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