The Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee, counting on getting at least $500 million for the American television rights to the 1988 Summer Games, apparently won't get nearly that much.
The highest bid submitted by an American network at meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week reportedly was one from NBC in the $320-million range, with CBS offering $300 million. Sources put ABC's bid between $250 million and $300 million.
None was accepted by the International Olympic Committee or the Seoul organizers. The networks have been asked to submit new bids by Sept. 23. But indications Saturday were that the new bids won't be much higher.
"We will definitely submit a new bid, and there may be some adjustment, but not much of one," Art Watson, NBC Sports president, said Saturday after returning to New York. "I think what happened in Lausanne shows that all three networks did their homework and submitted bids according to what the marketplace could bear.
"There have been dramatic changes in the sports broadcasting business this year. It gets down to supply and demand. Suppliers (sponsors) are tapped out. They're not going to pay like they have in the past."
NBC's bid for the Seoul Games was not straight cash. Watson, commenting on speculation that the network was offering some sort of revenue-sharing to the Seoul committee and the IOC, said: "It's an innovative bid, but it has nothing to do with revenue-sharing. Because it is innovative, I don't want to say anything more about it."
Before last week's negotiations, Neal Pilson, CBS Broadcast Group executive vice president in charge of sports and radio, had predicted that the Seoul rights would go for not much more than $300 million. Other network executives had made similar predictions.
"I think we showed we were not bluffing," Pilson said Saturday.
"I'm proud of our industry. All three networks made intelligent, rational bids. I've been saying for years now that escalation of rights fees was going to stop, and what's happening now is confirming that."
Last January, ABC, which had won the rights to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with a bid of $225 million, agreed to pay $309 million for the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary, Canada. It appears that the rights to the Seoul Games won't go for much more.
Said Watson: "ABC figures to suffer losses with the Calgary Games. The general speculation has been that the losses will be something like $50 million. But I say that sympathetically. Only for the grace of God, there go we. Our bid was right up there, too."