NBC to bid on '14, '16 Games

DENVER -- NBC plans on bidding for rights to televise the 2014 and 2016 Olympics despite the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision to build a competing Olympic network.

NBC spokesman Brian Walker said Sunday that nothing had changed in the network's intentions to bid for the games.

Because of the rough economy, the International Olympic Committee has postponed the bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, likely until after the 2016 Games are awarded in October. Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo are the finalists.

NBC has televised all Olympics since 2000. Fox, the ABC Sports-ESPN team and CBS and Time Warner have also discussed bidding for the games.

The IOC sent a letter last week chastising the USOC for announcing plans for its new network, saying it raised complex legal questions and also could have a negative impact on the relationship with NBC.

The USOC worked for nearly three years on constructing a network. That included negotiations with NBC, whose cable partner, Universal Sports, already airs a healthy amount of Olympic-sport coverage.

Those negotiations fizzled and the USOC teamed with Comcast, which will give the network clearance on about 10 million homes when it goes to air after next year's Vancouver Olympics. The USOC, which doesn't have non-Olympic-year rights to most of the major Olympic sports, plans to start with mainly small-sport coverage, news and information shows and archival footage.

USOC leaders are touting the network as a good way to increase interest in the Olympic movement and as a complement to NBC, which has rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and Olympic Trials.

"We're looking forward to working things out with the IOC in the very near future," chief operating officer Norm Bellingham said. "When it becomes more clear to everyone what is taking place with regards to the new entity, they'll see it's not cannibalizing anybody's piece of the pie, but growing it for all parties involved."

But Bellingham conceded that after 2012, the USOC network plans to bring Olympic trials to its own network.

All of this has leaders at the IOC worried, as they look to maximize the amount of money they can get for the U.S. TV contract -- not just the most lucrative TV deal out there, but the biggest chunk of money the IOC receives from anywhere. NBC will pay about $2.2 billion to televise the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.

The IOC, in its letter, said it was aware of the USOC's plans to start a network but thought there would be chances to discuss details before the USOC made the announcement.

"It is for this reason that the IOC is disappointed that the USOC acted unilaterally and, in our view, in haste by announcing their plans before we had had a chance to consider together the ramifications," the letter read.

There has been speculation that the USOC's decision could hurt Chicago's chance of hosting the 2016 Olympics.

The twist is that most conventional wisdom says the Games will be more lucrative on both the television and advertising fronts if they come to Chicago.

"We're American media companies, so of course we want them to win badly," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said earlier this year. "But there's value in the Olympics no matter where they are."