SBD/Issue 202/Sports Media

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  • IOC Official Expresses Frustration With New USOC TV Network

    Carrion (l) Feels USOC Proceeding Hastily
    With Plans For U.S. Olympic TV Network
    IOC Exec committee member Richard Carrion yesterday said that the organization has "not yet granted" the USOC "rights to use the Olympic name or archival video footage" for the new U.S. Olympic Network (USON), according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Carrion said that the IOC had told the USOC that it was "proceeding hastily into the venture and that it should not assume it would get the rights it wanted." Carrion: "We alerted them on Monday to the serious issues that we have and that we should discuss them before the announcement. That’s how a good partnership should work. I guess this is their style of doing things." But USOC COO Norm Bellingham in response to Carrion's comments said, "This isn't something we've hid. We've been in discussions with them on this network for years, and we’ve been quite open about our intentions." Carrion said that the IOC is "concerned not only about the viability" of the USON but also how it would affect NBC. Carrion: "We've given the rights to NBC to be the Olympic network, and I don’t think something else called the Olympic network will fly." Sandomir notes this disagreement is the "latest development in what has recently been a tense relationship between the two committees." Carrion: "I'm dismayed after all the talk about cooperating that this is how they’re going about this. The attitude, some would call it arrogant" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9). Bellingham said the IOC's objection "leaves us a little bit baffled, but we believe that we can work through our differences" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9).

    CAUGHT IN THE CROSSWIND: In Chicago, Hersh & Bergen report Chicago 2016 could face "possible backlash from a money-related dispute" between the IOC and USOC over the new network. Carrion: "I don't see how this can help." While Chicago 2016 in recent weeks has made an "effort to rebuild support in the wake of a controversy sparked last month" when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley pledged to sign the IOC host-city contract without modifications, the city's chances of landing the '16 Games "faces another potential hurdle because of actions not of its making." Bellingham said, "If this damages the bid, it would be deeply unfortunate, and it is in no way our intention. We are not trying necessarily to advance the Chicago bid, but we believe we are trying to advance the Olympic movement in the U.S." However, Olympic historian Kevin Wamsley said, "I'm sure Chicago is horrified" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/9). USOC acting CEO Stephanie Streeter: "We don't believe this will impact one way or another 2016 Chicago chances" (, 7/8).

    Bellingham Says USOC Has
    Right To Use Word Olympic
    PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Bellingham yesterday said he was surprised Carrion said that the IOC had not granted the USOC the rights to use the Olympic name or television footage. Bellingham said Congress "has granted the use of Olympic terminology to the USOC," thereby giving it the right to use the word Olympic in the U.S. and launch a network. The IOC's position, however, is critically important for the future of the network. One of the conditions Comcast placed on its deal to partner in the venture was predicated on IOC approval. If the IOC does not give its blessing, Comcast could pull out. Bellingham said that he had a positive discussion about the network with IOC marketing and television exec Timo Lumme earlier this week. He said that Lumme had some questions, which Bellingham described as minor. Bellingham plans to go to Lausanne, Switzerland, later this month to clarify those issues (Mickle & Ourand, SportsBusiness Journal).

    BACK & FORTH WE GO: Carrion: "They know we have issues. I just find it frankly cavalier on the part of the USOC. It's just vintage USOC." Carrion would not speculate on how the USON would impact U.S. TV rights, but a marketing source suggested that the network "could siphon as much" as $200M per year from the next TV deal, "expected to be negotiated within the next year." But former USOC Chair Peter Ueberroth contends that the USON will be "good business for the U.S. Olympic rights-holder." Ueberroth: "We are confident that the broadcaster who has the Olympic Games will have more revenue and do better because of the U.S. Olympic Network than they have in the past. So we think it will be more profitable for them and thus the IOC and the world's Olympic family" (, 7/8). Meanwhile, Carrion said Lumme told the USOC "in no uncertain terms the IOC had problems with this and (the USOC) should wait until we sat down with them and discussed this." But Bellingham said that the decision to announce the new network "owed to fear news of the deal signed with Comcast last week would leak out." He added that the USOC also was "concerned delays would impede its efforts to find other cable distributors for the network and to open discussions with advertisers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/9). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman cites sources as saying that Comcast "did not want to announce the deal until" the IOC and USOC settled their differences, and Comcast execs "did not participate" in yesterday's conference call. But USOC officials were "intent on making the announcement" at this week's Allen & Co. media retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/9). Ueberroth: "We started this two years ago. Everybody's known this is coming on and so we're not surprising anybody" ("Street Signs," CNBC, 7/8).

    Ueberroth Says USOC Prepared To Offer
    Equity Interest To Other Cable, Satellite Carriers
    IS THERE A MARKET? Ueberroth said that while the network is a joint venture between the USOC and Comcast, the USOC is "prepared to offer equity interests to other cable or satellite carriers that want to carry the network." In Houston, David Barron writes the USON is "not likely to be a significant ratings player." But Streeter said, "We don't need ratings to drive success. ... It will give these sports more exposure and create new fans" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/9). IOC member Dick Pound, the organization's former lead negotiator on U.S. TV rights, noted the Canadian Olympic Committee also is looking to create its own network and said, "I can't imagine that would be any concern for the IOC other than to say, 'Hey, this is great.' It's more exposure for the Olympic movement. Looking at it in utilitarian terms, it will probably enhance the value of the Olympic rights" (AP, 7/8). But in DC, Tim Lemke notes "serious questions remained Wednesday about the viability -- and even the legality -- of the venture." Chicago-based sports marketing agency rEvolution Exec VP Larry Mann: "When I heard about the USOC looking to launch this network, my first thought was, 'Do we need another Olympic sports network?'" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/9). SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine: "The Olympics is a huge event but it could be a challenge to get people to come to the channel on a regular basis. But everyone seems to believe that they need to own their own channel" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9). PAID CONTENT's Rafat Ali wrote while the "media world continues to implode, IOC continues to keep burying its head in the sand when it comes to the highly lucrative media rights" (, 7/8).

    TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: UNIVERSAL SPORTS' Alan Abrahamson wrote the mission statement for the USON "centers around nothing less than a far-seeing paradigm shift" -- the revenue model needs to change, and the new network "would be a major step in effecting that change." The challenge for both the USOC and the network, "both near- and long-term, is how -- indeed, whether -- theory lines up with the hard questions that come with the real world." Bellingham: "While we understand there is resistance to change, we think the model -- how revenue is generated, how value is created -- can be improved upon." Abrahamson noted there are a "slew of other real-world questions" stemming from the announcement, including the uncertainty of what the USON will show. Abrahamson: "What's the viewing experience apt to be like? ... Are any of the millions of dollars it would seemingly take to start up a USON going to prove a near-term or even mid-range draw upon the resources available to would-be Olympic athletes?" After yesterday's announcement, there were "more questions than there were immediate answers." However, if "history teaches anything," it is a "bad bet to bet against Peter Ueberroth" (, 7/8).

    TAKING A STAND: The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Hersh recently shared a "spirited exchange of emails" with honorary IOC member Hein Verbruggen over the IOC-USOC revenue-sharing dispute. Hersh in an e-mail to Verbruggen said, "Even with a greater global diversity in TOP sponsors, the IOC still depends on U.S. companies and TV networks for more than 50[%] of its revenues. The rights paid by the European Broadcast Union (with a greater total audience than the USA) have been a joke." Verbruggen in response said, "What in heaven is the relevance of the sponsors’ nationality as a criterion for 'rewarding' the NOC of the country? ... It might be U.S. sponsors but the fees are paid BY MANY SUBSIDIARIES in many countries. Most U.S. sponsors invest in TOP for developing their foreign markets" (, 7/8).

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  • Mountain West Conference Signs BCS TV Contract Despite Protest

    The Mountain West Conference (MWC) yesterday "signed off on the Bowl Championship Series' television contract with ESPN," though MWC Chair & Univ. of Utah President Michael Young said that the conference will "continue to push for change in the system," according to Steve Wieberg of USA TODAY. Young said the conference "has no choice at this time but to sign." Wieberg notes all of the other ten Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame had ratified the four-year, $125M deal with ESPN, which begins with the '10 season, and the deadline to ratify the deal was today (USA TODAY, 7/9). In Salt Lake City, Lya Wodraska notes failing to sign the agreement "would have meant MWC teams wouldn't have been eligible for BCS bowls, which could have cost the conference millions of dollars in revenue." The MWC, "faced with the prospect of being shut out of the BCS altogether," thus "relented Wednesday and agreed to be a part of the system it has openly fought to change" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/9).'s Graham Watson noted signing the agreement ends a "six-month campaign to change the BCS and the way it chooses its national champion" (, 7/8).

    FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT: In Utah, Dick Harmon writes the decision to sign the agreement "boiled down to a decision to take BCS money and ESPN exposure rather than stand up on principle and see where being victimized took them." While it is "sad to see this acceptance of what amounts to another bow before BCS powerbrokers," the MWC and Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which also signed the agreement yesterday, "were over the proverbial barrel" (DESERET NEWS, 7/9). In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson writes the MWC "should have simply told the network and the BCS to pound sand," and it "should have passed on the signing and made a real statement." But instead, it "caved, under duress, maybe even under protest." If the MWC had "gutted up and followed its complaints, its extending of alternatives by refusing to sign the new contract, it would have taken some hits, many of them financial, but it would have gained in even bigger doses something that in the long run could have helped it more: credibility" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/9). But in West Palm Beach, Ben Volin noted the MWC has had two teams play in a BCS bowl over the last five years, and the conference last year "split a $19.3[M] BCS check with four other non-BCS conferences." Volin: "Is it the same money being received by BCS schools? No, not even close. Is it way more than Utah ever earned before the BCS? You bet" (, 7/8).

    LARGER ISSUES IGNORED:'s Frank Deford wrote under the header, "BCS Isn't Fair, But Neither Is NCAA." Following Tuesday's U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on college football's postseason system, Deford wrote, "Why are congressmen so quick to come to the aid of university lobbyists but not university athletes, the poor laborers in college sport. Because just as the BCS is unfair to certain colleges, the NCAA is an evil overseer to its athletic minions." The NCAA "invariably sides with athletic departments and coaches, denying student-athletes basic rights and honest remuneration, even as programs bring in huge sums of money -- including the very BCS riches congress wants colleges to enjoy" (, 7/8).

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  • Sees 120% Traffic Increase For Tour's First Four Days's 120% Increase In Traffic Aided By
    Armstrong's Tour Return, New Technologies recorded a 120% increase in traffic for the first four days of the Tour de France compared to the start of last year’s race, according to internal metrics. While the spike, joining sharply increased TV ratings for its live morning telecasts of the race, owes in large part to the return of Lance Armstrong to the event after a three-year retirement, the network also heightened its interactive coverage of the race under new digital chief Neal Scarbrough. New this year to for the Tour is Race Tracker, which combines live GPS-based tracking, play-by-play accounts, interactive maps with elevation depictions, photo galleries and other content. Subscription-level offerings add live and on-demand, broadcast-quality video to Race Tracker. A lower-quality live online video feed is also available for free, a first in Versus’ coverage of the Tour de France. Versus additionally has extended an existing partnership with in which recreational cyclists can submit their own local ride data online and see how it compares to that day’s Tour stage, with participants eligible for a sweepstakes drawing. Among the major sponsors of Versus’ online Tour coverage is Cadillac, which is supporting a Tour widget and a related sweepstakes. Scarbrough said, "We’re seeing levels of interest rising back to when Armstrong was finishing up his seventh win [in 2005]. It’s early, but we’re up strongly this year, and we’ve got a much more compelling all-around product. We knew we had to be a lot more full service this year, so the interactivity is up strongly. The production levels of the video are much better, and so forth, and the numbers are starting to reflect all that."

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