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Lebron James of the U.S. dunks against Tunisia during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games on Wednesday. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
Lebron James of the U.S. dunks against Tunisia during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games on Wednesday. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

Usual Suspects

New Canadian deal no guarantee of star power in future Olympics Add to ...

Canada has a TV contract for coverage of the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

CBC and Radio-Canada announced Wednesday that it is the successful bidder for the rights to those Olympics: the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

CBC previously was bidding with CTV, but the private broadcaster, which has lost money on its ownership of the 2010 and 2012 Games, dropped out this year, leaving CBC to bid alone.

CBC did not disclose the cost for the contract, but it was known that the International Olympic Committee turned down an earlier $70-million bid from CBC and CTV. CBC executive Kirstine Stewart said a long-established Olympic track record helped it nab the rights after two joint proposals with Bell Media were rejected by the IOC. Stewart vowed CBC’s solo bid would not further cut into the public broadcaster’s hefty budget woes.

“We actually made sure that this was, based on our prior experience, a cost-neutral proposal,” said Stewart, predicting broad coverage on CBC, SRC and multiple digital platforms.

“This isn’t a deal that’s built to cost the CBC money and in fact, what we’re hoping for is a bit of a profit out of it.”

The sticking point for broadcasters, advertisers and the IOC itself is whether the NHL will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Without the best hockey players in the world on hand, the IOC’s rights are worth perhaps half of the $70-million figure. The league and its players are expected to resolve the dilemma of NHL participation in Russia during their current collective agreement negotiations.

Even if they cobble together a deal, it is clear this will be the final participation under the current setup in which the IOC gets the diamonds and the NHL gets the shaft financially. Any future participation will guarantee a cut of the IOC’s profit or the NHL will develop its own World Cup.

The NHLers are not alone.

The first week of Olympic basketball has brought suggestions from NBA commissioner David Stern and some of the league’s greatest stars that the Dream Team formula has played itself out – without the NBA getting a piece of the action. Stern is suggesting that an under-23 tournament (which soccer uses) replace the current open competition. Stars with ties to shoe companies such as Nike want to see what would replace the Olympic commitment before they make a move.

The IOC is feigning disinterest, saying all is well with its empire. But it’s clear that the open competition formula that succeeded amateurism has reached a crossroads. Hockey, basketball and soccer stars are intent on leveraging their Olympic appearances to the utmost, or creating new events to push their brands.

IOC president Jacques Rogge issued a comment after the protracted negotiations: “Canada is a sports loving nation, and Canadians are big fans of the Olympic Games. CBC/Radio-Canada has a wealth of experience in broadcasting sports and the Olympic Games, and we are pleased that we will once again be joining forces with them in the future.”

CBC was desperate to stay in the TV sports game in Canada, facing the possibility of losing the NHL national rights in 2014. It had earmarked the return of the Olympics as a priority.

With the Olympic consortium of Bell and Rogers losing money on the previous contract, the IOC had a hard sell to get value on this deal. CBC chairman Hubert Lacroix told CBC News Network that CBC and its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada, will be the sole rightsholder but could subcontract events to TSN so all events can be covered.

One CBC source said CBC didn’t have to go as outrageously high as the Bell and Rogers consortium did when it bid an estimated $152-million for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London.

“It’ll be like past Games for us – break even or a tiny profit,” said the source, who said he was not authorized to speak on behalf of CBC.

Raismans go viral: If you’re a network suit, you can plan your televisioncoverage from every angle. But the last few days of coverage have shown that the Olympic Games have a mind all their own. For all the compelling athletic action and brilliant technical work, it’s a video of the very involved parents of an American gymnast that has produced the most viral video so far.

The image of Rick and Lynn Raisman of Needham, Mass., doing syncro suffering in their seats as their daughter Aly performed has gone nuts on YouTube. In about 45 seconds, the writhing Raismans sum up the glory and terror of being a parent with a child in high-performance sport. The millions on the line in endorsements are secondary to the Raisman’s tortured sense of completion in Aly hitting a terrific performance.

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