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Olympic TV bids on hold -- until after 2016 vote

December 10, 2008 | 11:30 am

In Chicago, the city's 2016 Olympics flag flies alongside the U.S. flag.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland –- It appears the International Olympic Committee doesn’t expect the next round of formal negotiations for U.S. television rights to begin until after the IOC chooses the 2016 Summer Games host Oct. 2.

"I think it will pretty much depend on economic conditions, but everything we are seeing regarding advertising indicates they [U.S. networks] want to wait," said Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, chairman of the IOC finance commission. "I don’t see us being very active on this right now."

In 2003, NBC bought rights, sites unseen, to the 2010 Winter Games and 2012 Summer Games for a $2-billion base plus a $200-million commitment to promote Olympic sports between the Games.

That deal notwithstanding, Carrion said the networks always prefer to wait "because it eliminates uncertainty. I imagine it would have an impact [on negotiations] if you know where the Games are going to be."

In an uncertain economy, that could  be a significant consideration for a U.S. network.

The 2014 Winter Games will take place in Sochi, Russia, where the time difference (eight hours ahead for the East Coast and 11 ahead of the West Coast) makes the event less attractive for U.S. broadcasters.

So, Carrion was asked, would having a U.S. city (Chicago) in 2016 change things dramatically in the negotiations?

"So I’m told," he said with a smile.

Of course, another of the four 2016 finalists, Rio de Janeiro, would be only one hour ahead of New York during an Olympics.

"But you could not have asked for a more distant time zone [from New York] than Beijing, and those Games were a big success [for NBC]," said Carrion, the IOC’s chief negotiator for U.S. television rights.

Of course, the IOC helped NBC by agreeing to morning starts in China for swimming and gymnastics finals so those events would be live in prime time in most of the U.S. A U.S. network might seek a similar change if Tokyo gets the 2016 Games.

The fourth finalist is Madrid.

Carrion said he has had informal discussions with several U.S. networks interested in the rights, including NBC, Fox and ESPN/ABC.

"I’m in New York frequently. We bump into each other," he said.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: In Chicago, the city's 2016 Olympics flag flies alongside the U.S. flag. Credit: Jae C. Hong / AP