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CBS Drops Out of Bidding for Olympics in 2010, 2012

June 03, 2003|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

Skittish to pledge billions of dollars more for another big-ticket sports contract, CBS on Monday said it was pulling the plug on its potential bid to broadcast the Olympics in 2010 and 2012.

"With all of the uncertainties surrounding two events that don't conclude for another nine years, committing significant rights and production expenses ... is not the best use for our resources," CBS said in a statement. Network executives declined to comment further.

Officials of the International Olympics Committee could not be reached for comment.

NBC, ABC and Fox, meanwhile, are still in the running to broadcast the Games, and will make their presentations to the IOC in Switzerland on Friday.

Last week, however, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said he wasn't interested in Fox "overpaying" to win the Games. He declined to say how much the company would be willing to pay.

CBS, sources say, was hesitant to pledge between $1.5 billion to $2 billion for broadcast rights without knowing the location of the Games. Executives were wary of bidding on the Games that are seven and nine years away in light of increasing world political tensions.

The events, they say, could also be held in a hostile country or a time zone half a world away, meaning key events would be held when most Americans are asleep. Tape-delayed broadcasts would diminish the network's revenue potential, particularly in an age of instantaneous news when people often learn the results long before an event airs in prime-time on TV.

Analysts say CBS's decision probably hinged on the fact that the Viacom Inc.-owned network has costly long-term deals for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament. That, they say, made another pricey sports deal less palatable.

Still, analysts say, the Olympics have been the one televised sport that continues to make money for the networks.

NBC agreed to pay $1.5 billion to broadcast the 2006 and 2008 Olympics in the U.S. And the network made a profit of $50 million from the 2000 games in Sydney and $75 million last year from the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"Clearly NBC has made a business out of the Olympics, and probably has the best incentive to keep them," said John Mansell, senior analyst with Kagan World Media. "And although the advertising market has been down lately, the ad rates for the Olympics continue to rise."

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