Turner-USOC union set standard for cooperation
Published September 7, 2009
John Naber’s letter in the [Aug. 24-30 issue of] SBJ inspired me to write regarding the mess that is USA Olympic sports television. I think there are lessons to be learned from the recent foibles of USOC leadership.
No one can argue what NBC has done in promoting and televising the Games themselves. But Naber’s letter calls to memory what incredible vision and leadership was supplied in the late ’80s by Ted Turner, Robert Wussler and Harvey Schiller when the USOC and Turner Broadcasting entered into a mutually beneficial arrangement to create a weekly television program, called “U.S. Olympic Gold,” that spotlighted most of the national federations and their competitions, and led also to TBS and TNT featuring comprehensive live and prime-time coverage of the U.S. Olympic Festivals, the Pan American Games from Havana, the first basic-cable extended coverage of any Olympics (Albertville and Lillehammer), and yes, multiple Goodwill Games, winter and summer, from all over the world.
This relationship in some ways cost both sides, in money and resources. Sacrifices were made by NGBs, the USOC, and certainly by the Turner checkbook. But I think Naber — and many of his fellow Olympic alums who were employed by Turner as announcers and analysts — would agree that at no time in history were Olympic federations better treated and presented on a continuous national platform than in the Turner years.
The adage says, “There is no limit to success when you don’t care who gets the credit.”
I would encourage all the stakeholders to spend some time studying the output of the Turner/Wussler/Schiller vision and aim first for that kind of cooperation.