By Stephen Wilson
The Associated Press
LONDON — Encouraged by the improving economy in the United States, the International Olympic Committee plans to begin negotiations on U.S. broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Games next year.
IOC president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press on Friday that the bidding could begin soon after the Feb. 12-28 Winter Games in Vancouver.
NBC, ABC-ESPN, Fox and possibly CBS-Time Warner are expected to bid for combined rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“The economic climate seems to be reviving in the United States, so that’s a good omen,” Rogge said in a telephone interview. “Definitely, I think rather shortly after Vancouver we will start discussing. We’re not going to negotiate during the Vancouver Games themselves. But I think second quarter, second half of next year, would definitely be possible.”
The IOC earlier this year indefinitely postponed the U.S. rights negotiations due to the global economic downturn.
Richard Carrion, the IOC’s finance commission chairman and top negotiator on U.S. rights, said earlier this month that the American deal might not be done until 2012 if the economic picture didn’t improve.
“We don’t have to be over optimistic,” Rogge said. “The crisis is not over. There are good signs, particularly in the United States, that the situation is changing. The States have got officially out of recession thanks to a very good growth in the third quarter, and that’s a very positive thing.
“There’s always going to be a direct link between the economic climate and the rights.”
The American TV rights are the most lucrative single source of IOC marketing revenue. NBC paid $2.2 billion for rights to the Vancouver Games and 2012 London Olympics.
The value of rights is expected to be lower than it would have been had Chicago won its bid to host the 2016 Games. Chicago was eliminated in the first round of IOC voting in Copenhagen on Oct. 2, and the games were awarded to Rio and South America for the first time.
Rogge said he still expects the IOC to secure a good deal for Rio.
“I’m optimistic for that,” he said. “It’s a very good time zone for the States. Time-zone wise there is absolutely no problem. I think Brazil will be an interesting prospect for the U.S. in general.”
Rio will be one hour ahead of East Coast time in the U.S. during the games.
The IOC has already secured $692 million in European rights fees for 2014 and 2016. With deals still to come in Germany, Britain and France, the IOC hopes to surpass a total for Europe of $1.2 billion.