Networks approach future Olympics cautiously

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Don't expect the monster bids that have accompanied previous negotiations when the International Olympic Committee opens the round for the 2014 and 2016 Games.

Fox, ESPN/ABC, CBS and Turner Broadcasting could vie for rights along with incumbent NBC. All will try to exercise fiscal restraint; NBC's admission of a loss in Vancouver even before the Games begin is a sign of such newfound probity -- or a ploy to discourage competitors.

"The Olympics have managed to create a myth about bidding on their rights that can only be described as making it seem like something to bid to meet the pope," Fox Sports chairman David Hill says. "They've created this myth of celestial singing and strings."

To Hill, there's no mystery. Fox's bid was -- and will be -- about cost-effectiveness: the potential ad revenue to be gained; the losses because of three weeks' of regular programming out the window; production and engineering costs; even the cost of entertaining advertisers and affiliates.

"We sat down with a calculator and worked out what it was going to be," Hill says.
ESPN executive vp John Skipper outlined a game plan similar to Hill's.

"We have to run our internal ad-sales projections for 2014 and 2016 and come up with what we think we can bid," he says.

A combined NBC-Comcast must figure out the add-on value of the chance to bulk up fledgling sports cabler Versus that such a rights deal would represent.

The opening round of bids could happen by early next year, but no one can predict what will happen with the economy so far out.

"It's like any sports bid," Hill says. "You're always a hostage to fortune."
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