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Sports CBC lands broadcast rights to 2018, 2020 Olympics

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., beleaguered by revenue cuts, layoffs and now even a sex scandal, managed to announce a little good news on Tuesday.

It will take a partnership with Rogers Communications and Bell Media, but the CBC has managed to land the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Rogers and Bell Media will carry some of the Olympics programming on their Sportsnet and TSN/RDS networks, respectively, but the bulk of the most popular events will be shown on the CBC.

"We have decided among us that CBC, because it has the greatest reach and greatest platform, will take the top-tier events," said Jeffrey Orridge, CBC's executive director of sports properties. "The goal is to bring as much content to as many Canadians as possible."

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While Orridge and CBC president Hubert Lacroix stressed the fee paid to the International Olympic Committee for the rights to all Canadian media platforms for the two Games was "fiscally responsible," they would not say how much it was. Orridge said the public network expects its investment to break even at worst, a claim echoed by the two private broadcasters.

"We worked with the CBC to come up with a financial plan as well as a production plan," said Phil King, Bell Media's president of CTV, sports and entertainment programming. "We expect to break even or make a bit of dough on it. It's not cost-prohibitive and we're going to share production resources on it [with the CBC and Rogers]."

Thanks to a series of budget cuts forced upon the CBC by the federal Conservative government, and the devastating loss of its most profitable program, Hockey Night in Canada, to Rogers, the CBC's ability to attract major sports programming was practically wiped out. Its only major property is now the Olympics, as the network will also broadcast the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

No one would say how the production costs will be split, but the CBC will take the lead as the content producer. It will also be in charge of selling advertising on all three carriers.

Olympic rights fees became comparatively inexpensive when Rogers and Bell Media lost interest in bidding wars on the properties. They formed a consortium to land the 2010 Vancouver Games and the Summer Olympics in London in 2012, and that did not prove to be profitable. And executives from all three companies said the days of one network carrying an entire Olympics are over, for more reasons than finances.

Aside from having to accommodate existing broadcast obligations as well as the Olympics, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley said, "You need this many platforms to satisfy the demand of Canadians for the Olympics. There are so many games and events happening at one time, you need this many broadcasters and platforms to give consumers [what] they've come to expect."

At this point, the NHL has not decided if it will participate in the 2018 Games. Orridge said the fee paid to the IOC was not contingent on the NHL's participation.

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While Rogers is paying $5.2-billion to the NHL over the next 12 years for its Canadian national broadcast rights, and now has an interest in the league's Olympic participation, Pelley said his company has not discussed this with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

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