ESPN Considering An Olympics Bid

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


They've been buying up everything else lately, so why not the Olympics? At the Monday Night Football Kickoff event in New York, ESPN's George Bodenheimer confirmed that ABC/ESPN was very interested but that they were still evaluating. Via Multichannel News....

Bodenheimer -- who noted that ESPN already has a relationship with the IOC through the company’s coverage of the Games on its Brazilian networks and through its bid on the last round of U.S. TV rights -- gave thumbs up to NBC’s multiplatform presentation of the Beijing Olympics, as it mirrors the multiplatform tack ESPN embarked on more than a decade ago.

“It validates the belief we had 10 years ago or more that sports fans are not just enjoying sports on television,” Bodenheimer said.

Bidding for the 2014 Games from Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Summer Olympics will likely unfold over the next six to nine months, according to ESPN officials. A firm deadline is expected by October 2009, when the IOC determines whether Rio de Janiero, Madrid, Tokyo or Chicago will host the 2016 Games.

Given NBC Universal’s ratings and digital-media success with the current Games, which held an $894 million rights fee, the bidding will likely surpass the $1 billion mark, a floor ESPN is bracing for.

“If I was holding the auction, I would definitely want to hold it after this Olympics,” said ESPN vice president of content John Skipper.
It would be an interesting decision to say the least, but not one that would surprise me. Golf and Soccer have been the network's focus as of late and adding the Olympics to ESPN and ABC would be the next natural step towards world domination (I kid, I kid). I still personally think that NBC lucked out with the whole Phelps storyline, but they are still making money and are projected to hit the $1.3 Billion dollar mark soon.

The IOC also does not give the current network the right to negotiate first. This is obviously a long way off, and would certainly depend on the success of the 2012 Games and the potential of Chicago getting the bid, but the 2016 Summer Games could be coming to Disney.

ESPN To Make Olympics Play (Multichannel News)

Posted by Awful Announcing- at 7:28 AM

20 Comments:

Please no. I don't particularly enjoy Bob Costas but giving ESPN free reign to put their guy in the main chair at the Olympics would be painful. Mike Tirico? No Thanks. Trey Wingo? Ugh. Chris Berman... haha no way they're that stupid. Right?

Although I can see Berman doing Olympic highlights making up nicknames while he stumbles over all of the athletes names from China, Japan, Kenya, etc. and Tony Kornheiser playing the role of whoever that lady is whose teeth don't move when her mouth does.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 8:45:00 AM  

Anon, I was thinking the EXACT same thing. Who would they use as the main moderator? By then, they may be able to hire Costas (don't know the length of his contract), but I'd guess a Tirico or Hannah Storm is probably their best chance.

I think they'll do it just to be able to show highlights on SportsCenter instead of still photos. The ad revenue on ESPN and ESPN News would be able to go up too.

Brent said...
Aug 20, 2008, 9:30:00 AM  

You're right, AA, NBC caught lightning in a bottle with this whole Phelps thing. If I remember correctly no one seemed to give a shit about the Olympics in 2004 and no one will give a shit after the MSM's boner for Phelps subsides.

Phelps acted as a distraction from the Olympics' infinite problems: cities' economies, global politics, environmentalism, the nature of pro sports, etc., etc.

Buzz Bissinger had a piece in the NYT earlier this year about how the writing is on the wall for the Olympics die within the next half century or so. He was right and it's something the MSM will have to face.

Plus the thought of ESPN controlling anything as big as the Olympics almost makes me want to commit suicide.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 9:32:00 AM  

I agree in the sense that ESPN will make a huge production out of the Olympics. Also, it says the bid will be awarded by Oct. '09. I know that is the same time the 2016 Olympics will be announced. Would that be at the same meeting? Obviously if Chicago gets the Games there's much more interest for ESPN and any other network.

Yeah, I can see Chris Berman hosting the late night show and referencing music that will be 40 years old at that point. Sounds great, huh! But if I'd guess on a prime time host, my money would be on Chris Fowler. He's as good as anybody at ESPN, and this would still be a few weeks bf the college football season begins.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 10:05:00 AM  

The scheduling of LIVE events had to help NBC also. Yeah, the Phelps thing was a huge spike, but the fact that for the first time, we were having LIVE finals from an Olympics somewhere outside North America had to have had an impact. With practically all of this week's Track and Field on tape delay (and admittedly no Phelps) ratings will go down.

There's the element of suprise that comes with something being live...and the fact that no one can spoil who wins. I've been seeing results for stuff everywhere before the events air. I know to avoid NBCOlympics.com, but even Yahoo! has been putting up major results on the front page.

I know there are some that complain about NBC, but they really do a pretty good job with the Olympics. It's a HUGE event to cover, all the sports at different venues.

The IOC is somewhat protective about their broadcasts, so at least if ESPN got it, they wouldn't let it become one giant ESPN promo. Think about it, not once have you seen any ad for any crappy show that NBC debuts in the fall at the bottom of the screen during an event. Commercials yes, but not those annoying grapics that pop-up at the bottom of the screen during another show.

michael said...
Aug 20, 2008, 10:35:00 AM  

I look forward to Chris Berman being stopped by the KGB (or whatever they call the KGB now) in Soichi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Maybe he can be sent to the Gulag. Do they still do that in Russia?

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 10:52:00 AM  

ESPN is dying to embarrass themselves internationally. Emmitt Smiff puff pieces would be fantastic though.

GMoney said...
Aug 20, 2008, 10:54:00 AM  

I think NBC will do whatever it takes to keep the Olympics on their network even if that means overpaying for them. Specially, after the success of this Olympivs.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 11:30:00 AM  

you guys are forgetting that FOX is also interested in getting these games also!!! as for espn, don't worry about it, it will not happen because the games will not be in chicago in 2016!! it will be in rio de janrio because the olympics have never been held in south america!!!!!!! i think nbc will regain the rights due to their huge success already in Beijing, but look for FOX to challenged them!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 11:36:00 AM  

I would much prefer NBC over ESPN.

jfein said...
Aug 20, 2008, 11:40:00 AM  

I agree, anon. I think that Rio will get the 2016 games. We've hosted more than any other country and it's good to spread it out. My prediction is the Games will return to the US in 2020.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 11:59:00 AM  

NBC > ESPN. No way I would want the Olympics to be ESPNized. Say what you will about not showing events live, etc. but NBC does a good job overall.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 12:04:00 PM  

2016 is plenty of time for Rio to hit their slums & rats with a couple extra coats of paint.

/Lisa Simpson

Tainted Alligator Souffle said...
Aug 20, 2008, 12:08:00 PM  

I'd be ok with ESPN getting the Olympics, only because we'd probably get more live coverage here on the West Coast during the ABC primetime coverage. Assuming ABC has primetime coverage, since ESPN apparently forgets it has a broadcast outlet sometimes...

Jon said...
Aug 20, 2008, 12:45:00 PM  

I think that's a good point that another poster borught up about fox. I don't think you can discount them because I beleive they want the gaems as much as ESPN does or even more. I would nto be surprise if Fox bid is as much or close to the money NBC is willing to pay for the games.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 2:33:00 PM  

Aside from ESPN possibly not tape delaying the West Coast, I think ESPN would do a worse presentation than NBC. Keep Chris Berman away from the whole thing.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 2:36:00 PM  

Chris Berman should not be near the Olympics if ESPN gets it. Berman could not carry Bob Costas's jock when it comes to hosting the Olympics. The only one that might be close at ESPN might be Mike Tirico.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 3:33:00 PM  

2016 in Rio.
No way, later.

Anonymous said...
Aug 20, 2008, 6:12:00 PM  

Actually, I think Chris Fowler would do a great job as the guy in the primetime chair. He can be rowdy with the College Gameday crew, or serious with those announcing tennis. He'd be wonderful in my opinion.

Tom said...
Aug 20, 2008, 9:25:00 PM  

Guys, guys, guys. There is NO WAY ESPN is letting Boomer within twelve feet of the Olympics, except maybe on their equivalent of "Olympic Update". They know better than to sully the Olympics with his schtick. And if they don't, well, blogs will have taken over the world by then so they'll be shamed into dropping it. :)

I imagine they'll put Brent Musberger in the main primetime chair (with Robin Roberts and Kenny Mayne on the Opening Ceremony), similar to his role at the Indy 500 and Belmont and the like, assuming he's still alive and working for them. If not him, then John Saunders.

(Incidentially, Fox isn't getting the rights. Where would cable coverage go? FSN with coverage constantly being overruled by the affiliates? Fox News, maybe? But then they couldn't indoctrinate us with the ways of the Republican Party! :) And Joe Buck would probably make you long for Boomer... And I'm doubtful Chicago is getting the 2016 Games only because it's so soon after Vancouver 2010.)

I don't know how much ESPN might want to take over other Disney properties like ABC Family. I actually have a rather complex file tracking how ESPN might cover the games that assumes it would take over any other non-Disney-Channel Disney properties, meaning ABC Family and Lifetime, which Disney owns half of and which would get put into a role similar to that of Oxygen now. I imagine ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC Family would be the main networks with ESPN Classic and ESPNU showing the smaller events. I can see ESPN telling us "you can see every medal event either live or in primetime!" (no shafting of combat sports or sailing) with several medal ceremonies and maybe some events bumped to ESPNNEWS. I could also see ESPN creating a special HD-only Olympics channel for ESPN Classic stuff to be shown in HD and some events that wouldn't get networks otherwise. What role do you think ESPN Mobile TV would get?

I could see the following personalities hosting coverage on the Family of Networks in some order (note that all personality analysis is based on the present day): Stuart Scott (or some other SportsCenter personality, maybe Linda Cohn), Chris Fowler, Rece Davis, Trey Wingo (complete with "so glad YOU are here with us!").

Sappy personality pieces: Chris Connoly or one of the "E:60" guys.

Play-by-play guys: I'm actually working under the assumption Mike Tirico would stay in the states to call stateside events like preseason MNF and all analysts would stay the same as now with one or two exceptions as noted (some things assume a similar approach as NBC):

Brad Nessler to track and field, Bonnie Bernstein as trackside reporter. Some combination of Mike Patrick, Dan Shulman and Ron Franklin on swimming, gymnastics, and diving. Suzy Kolber poolside on swimming, Erin Andrews on gymnastics. (How's THAT for a good picture to look at?)

Some combination of Gary Thorne, Paul Pope, Terry Gannon, Sean McDonough, Dave Pasch, Mark Jones, Terry Gannon, and Pam Ward on beach volleyball, team volleyball, and six other sports. That list could include cycling and triathlon but I suspect they'd try to poach someone from somewhere else for those sports (although the more X-Games-like cycling events probably would draw from that pool). Also likely, based on order of NBC olympic announcers post: rowing/canoeing, synchronized swimming, wrestling, water polo. Depends on other factors: pentathlon, weightlifting, equestrian, may-y-ybe handball. Joe Tessitore on boxing; Cliff Drysdale on tennis; ESPNU and SportsCenter/ESPNNEWS personalities could fill out most of the rest of the sports.

Basketball is an interesting case because I suspect ESPN would keep Mike Breen but pair him with Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy for maximum NBA on ABC Disnergy (would they play the NBA on ABC theme or the more-Roundball-Rock-esque college basketball theme?), and pair him with Doris Burke on women's basketball, with Michele Tafoya on the sideline. I see them keeping most of NBC's soccer lineup, if only because most of them work for ESPN anyway.

Holly Rowe, Lisa Salters, Stacey Dales, and Jack Arute would be sideline reporters in some order for diving (maybe), possibly team volleyball, cycling, triathlon, maybe other events like rowing/canoeing, synchronized swimming, wrestling, and water polo, with boxing and maybe soccer in there as well. Don't know if Rob Stone would be play-by-play or a sideline reporter or both at different times (does that put table tennis or badminton in play for non-ESPNU personalities?)

What about graphics? Does ESPN ape the Olympic feed graphics for everything like they did for Euro 2008, create completely new graphics like NBC, or just use the graphics they use normally, which the CBC is actually doing? The first and last are tempting, since both the IOC and ESPN use parallelogram-based layouts anyway...

Morgan Wick said...
Aug 21, 2008, 4:31:00 PM  

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