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Golf will make its Olympic return in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Graeme Roy)
Golf will make its Olympic return in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Graeme Roy)

Usual Suspects

IOC facing television challenge in Canada Add to ...

What sound does a single bidder make in negotiations for the Canadian TV and digital rights to the 2014/2016 Olympics? Probably the television equivalent of one hand clapping. And that’s a challenging sound for the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC is considering its options after failing to get what it considers fair value for Canadian TV rights to the next two Games from a combined Bell Media/CBC consortium. Rogers Communications, part of the current Olympics broadcasting consortium in Canada, declined to participate in the bidding.

Originally, the IOC had hoped that Canadian bidding would be finished last year, when rights to the next four Olympics were awarded in the U.S. But a poor economy and the lack of a competing Canadian bidder has created a delay for the lords of the rings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC believes it is not getting the value it wants in Canada for the next Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and Rio de Janeiro respectively. Sources say the initial offer bid was for less than half the previous amount of the $153-million paid for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and 2012 London Summer Games, whereas the IOC is looking for approximately $100-million.

This does not constitute the end of negotiations, however. The broadcasters say they remain in discussions and are waiting for the IOC to make the next move. The IOC, meanwhile, waits for the networks to come back to the table with a better offer.

Compounding matters is the question of whether NHL players will participate in Sochi. Having junior players or journeymen pros in Russia would be a major disincentive for Canadian advertisers looking to buy into the broadcasts. Unfortunately for all parties, the NHL participation in Sochi is tied up in the upcoming NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining which may not be resolved before the fall. “It's a big issue for sure, but not the only one,” Phil King, president of CTV programming, said by e-mail on Tuesday.

Logistics in Russia, security and an eight-hour time difference to Toronto are other issues that have been raised. Complicating matters further, the current Canadian consortium package lost money in Vancouver and is expected to do so as well this summer in London. Combined with the single Bell/CBC bid, it’s causing consternation for the IOC, which has been able to dramatically increase TV rights’ packages the past 30 years.

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson told Usual Suspects that “CBC and Bell Media are negotiating with the IOC and as you might imagine, the details (related to our joint bid) are confidential.”

Did You Say Practice?: In the past, NHL team practices were sleepy affairs for reporters where only an injury or a coach’s punitive bag skate merited mention. And then only in small print at the bottom of another piece. Since Twitter, however, practices are being covered as if they were journalistic gold. Knowing most of the people tweeting, we assume it’s not their idea to scrutinize line combinations as if they were pork futures; but when you have a new technology, editors and bosses want you to use it.

So from Tuesday’s practices we had line combinations tweeted in Chicago, goalie assignments in Montreal, injury updates in Minnesota and a discussion in Toronto whether designated heavy Jay Rosehill would opt in for the Maple Leafs’ game with Ottawa. Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC “Ron Wilson in cone of silence mode, admitting Rosehill in but not saying who is out -- either at forward or on D.”

Monday there was a flurry of activity when the plexiglass at the Leafs’ practice rink broke. Because enquiring minds want to know!

Nick At Night: Certainly hope Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t have stomach flu, because the cameras of the NHL followed him for 36 straight hours this week. Lidstrom is the first subject for the league’s new NHL 36 series that tails a top player like Sam Spade for a day and a half.

So its cameras caught Lidstrom in back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres (a 5-0 win at Joe Louis) and on a road trip to play the Dallas Stars (a 3-2 OT win for the Red Wings). Think of it as a mini 24/7 documentary focused on just one player. First Canadian airing is on the NHL Network on Friday, Jan. 27 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

One Of Them Places: Glad to see the Shaquille O’Neal retirement working so well. When not being lampooned by Charles Barkley on SNL. Shaq is trying to make it as a panelist on TNT’s NBA coverage. The other night, O’Neal was talking about Minnesota's impressive rookie point guard Ricky Rubio. Shaq called Rubio “the Italian Pete Maravich.” Which is nice. Except Rubio is from Spain.

Tears On My Cheddar: Finally, it hurts to be a Green Bay Packer fan these days. ““I told you not to do the sparkles.”

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