Canadian media to break even on Olympics

CTV-led consortium cites the home soil advantage

TORONTO -- Canada's CTV-led Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium expects to break even covering the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Rick Brace, president of revenue, business planning and sports at Canadian broadcaster CTV, said Thursday that home soil advantage has advertising sales on track to cover the cost of televising the Vancouver Games.

"We're going to break even," Brace said as the CTV-led consortium continues its 24/7, wall-to-wall coverage of the 2010 Games on 11 nationwide TV networks, and a range of digital platforms including web streaming and mobile.

NBC Universal earlier said it expects to lose money with its Winter Games coverage after it paid $820 million for the U.S. rights, well up from the $613 million paid for the rights to the 2006 Turin Games.

CTV and partner Rogers Communications paid CAN$90 million ($86.4 million) for the rights to the Vancouver Games, and another CAN$63 million ($60.5 million) for the 2012 Games, reflecting the higher Canadian audience potential for the Winter Olympics, given Canada's cold climate and affinity for winter sports.

Like NBC, CTV paid dearly for the Vancouver Games' rights after the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. shelled out CAN$73 million ($70 million) to air both the 2006 and 2008 Olympic Games.

But despite a soft advertising market, getting Canadian companies to advertise during an Olympic Games in their own backyard has worked to the advantage of the CTV-led broadcast consortium.

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"We're dealing with the Games in our own country. You have awareness, you have emotion, you have all of the things that form the recipe to allow you to open the doors more easily with agencies and sponsors," Brace said.

Despite a mishap-prone Games in Vancouver, the consortium's nationwide sporting coverage continues to break all records for Canadian Olympic viewership.

Wednesday's overall CUME rating -- nationwide TV plus online, radio and print reach -- reached 32.18 Canadians, or just over 96% of the population, the consortium reported.

The Canadian coverage is also not following NBC in directing audiences to primetime by delaying broadcasts of major sporting events.

The consortium has instead chosen 24/7, wall-to-wall TV coverage to better monetize the costly Games' rights.

"We're going around the clock with this thing. From a practical standpoint, we needed a lot of inventory to cover the investment we made here," Brace said.

In practical terms, the consortium offers viewers five major feeds -- CTV, Rogers Sportsnet, The Sports Channel, and the French-language channels V and RDS -- that broadcast or stream online a different block of Olympic sporting event coverage at differing times of the day and night to ensure an entire 12-hour block of Olympics for Canadians each day.

Additionally, Canadians can back up and watch around the clock key moments online that they missed during live coverage.

The Canadian consortium also has the advantage that local CTV and Rogers local TV station affiliates welcome the marathon Olympic coverage from Vancouver, while NBC local affiliates mostly take the prime time coverage from the 2010 event.

Another irony is the Canadian broadcasters are embracing the Olympic multichannel pervasiveness that NBC Sports and Dick Ebersol pioneered during earlier Games to serve on-the-go Canadians in an increasingly digital, multiplatform world.

"NBC was way ahead of its time at that point. This takes it to a new level and responds to what viewers expect," Brace said.