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IOC to Auction 2014, 2016 U.S. Olympic Rights

It’s about time.

After a long delay, the International Olympic Committee will hold negotiations for Olympic television rights in the near future. At stake: exclusive rights to broadcast the 2014 (Sochi) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro) Games in the United States.

“We will most likely start negotiations either at the end of this year or in the beginning of next year,” IOC president Jacques Rogge told the AP in a telephone interview. “The economy is improving, and the economy is definitely the major factor for which we waited.

He expects incumbent rights-holder NBC to bid along with CBS, Turner, ESPN-ABC, and Fox. This could be a turning point in Olympic television history.

NBC will broadcast from London in 2012, but its $2.2 billion deal runs out after that event. The network – which is part of a General Electric conglomerate that’s currently being purchased by Comcast – lost $233 million on the Vancouver Games and drew criticism for showing some events on tape-delay. Its grip on the Games is loosening.

The Peacock will face stiff competition from ESPN, which submitting a losing bid on the previous games. The Worldwide Leader’s John Skipper previously stated his network would show the Olympics live if they were to win.

The battle between NBC and ESPN will be fascinating to watch. The latter has the talent, the platforms, and the money to pull off the first truly modern broadcast, but NBC has DIck Ebersol. He made his career at least partially on the Games and won’t let them go without a knockdown, dragout fight.

The ultimate winners: the IOC, who’s going to laugh all the way to the bank.

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