Yahoo Enters Olympic Broadcast Hunt?

by Jordan Richardson on March 6, 2012

Thanks to a couple of “lowball” bids for the broadcast rights to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, Yahoo Inc. may well have the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and BCE Inc.’s partnership’s bid for the aforementioned games was apparently too low to fetch the interest of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), so the bid was rejected in late February without much fanfare. This has left the door open for Yahoo and the company is said to be considering a bid for the Canadian broadcasting rights.

Should Yahoo win the bid, the Olympics could theoretically be broadcast primarily online and away from the traditional television sources in Canada. Canadians have thus far been relatively receptive of entertainment choices online, what with the success of Netflix and all, and 2014 could provide an ideal opportunity to test the waters once more.

Yahoo is far from a shoe-in for the broadcasting rights in the Great White North, of course, and it’s expected that the CBC/BCE partnership will recalibrate and come back with another bid in the summer. One of the sticking points currently is whether or not the National Hockey League will send players to participate in the Winter Olympics in Russia.

According to sources, the bid put forth by CBC/BCE was about half of what they paid for rights to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

There are other set-ups internationally that could impact how Canadians see the Olympics and how broadcasters get the rights to the events. In Europe, television broadcasters have to use sub-licensing from a sports marketing company to get access to the Games. And in Taiwan, an Internet service provider actually has the rights to online and television broadcasting.

These models could provide for a precedent in Canada if Yahoo is able to outbid the traditional broadcast partners.

CTV and Rogers Communications are partnering in a $153 million deal to broadcast the London Games this summer, which pretty much means Rogers is out of the running for the 2014 and 2016 events. Estimates are already suggesting that CTV/Rogers will lose money on the London Games.

As is always the case, none of the other bidders are talking on the record due to the ongoing negotiations. One has to wonder what the Olympic landscape would look like in Canada should Yahoo win and the Games get broadcast online, however, especially given the Internet data caps most users continue to linger under.

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