CBS, Turner consider Olympics bid

Would join NBC, ESPN, Fox as contenders

NEW YORK -- CBS and Turner Sports are mulling a joint bid for Olympics when the International Olympics Committee considers the next rights package sometime next year.

CBS and Turner have had preliminary conversations, somewhere between a passing conversation between executives from the channel and slightly more advanced discussions. But the discussions are nowhere near anything remotely resembling a concrete bid.

"The Olympics are a very strong sports property and something that we would have potential interest (in) if it made economic sense for our company," Turner said in a statement. The news was first reported by the Associated Press late Wednesday.

CBS couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

If a CBS-Turner bid is made, then it would join a crowded field of contenders in the United States that include NBC, ESPN and Fox. NBC has spent big bucks in recent years to carry the Olympics, which it considers to be its signature sport. That investment paid ratings dividends this past summer when Americans tuned in for the Beijing Olympics.

In August, ESPN and Fox confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that they were interested in making bids to topple NBC as the U.S. rightsholder. CBS wasn't leaning in that direction, with some thinking that the ratings success was "lightning in a bottle" that may not be repeated, but may have slightly changed its mind.

NBC's tenure with the Olympics, which began with the Summer Olympics and came to include the Winter Olympics beginning in 2006, has been groundbreaking in the use of broadcast, cable networks and now the Web. Where NBC's coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta had been only on the broadcast network, they have grown now to include not only NBC but also Telemundo plus its owned cable networks like USA, CNBC, MSNBC and even Oxygen. With 3,000 hours available live, either by TV or the Web, NBC has carried more Olympics in 2008 than anyone.

Like NBC, ESPN and Fox have both the broadcast, cable and Web properties that would be able to carry off a 21st century Olympic package. But CBS doesn't have as many cable outlets, and Turner doesn't have a broadcast network. But the two together would be able to do that.

But it might be a while before a bid would have to be put together. The International Olympic Committee, which controls the bidding, is likely to postpone it until the late fall 2009 because of the poor world economy. NBC's rights deal, for which it paid $2.2 billion in 2003, ends with the 2012 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. The games in the next round would be the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games at a place to be determined in the late fall. It could be Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro.

NBC's previous bid outspent both Fox and ESPN/ABC.