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ESPN gets 2010, 2012 Olympic rights

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- ESPN secured the South American broadcast rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics on Thursday in a deal worth about $10 million.

ESPN takes over from the Iberoamericana Television Organization (OTI) group of networks which broadcast each summer Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The rights, sold by the International Olympic Committee, cover the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Olympics.

It's the first time Disney-owned ESPN has acquired Olympic broadcast rights on its own. Previously, its subsidiary, ESPN Star Sports, secured some rights to show the Vancouver and London Game across much of Asia.

"We are delighted to announce this agreement with ESPN and look forward to working with them," IOC president Jacques Rogge said.

ESPN executives called the new deal "a tremendous milestone" for the network's business in South America.

"This agreement expands our relationship with the IOC and adds the Olympic games to the schedule of world class events we cover," Russell Wolff, the managing director of ESPN International, said in a statement.

ABC-ESPN is expected to be among the bidders along with NBC, Fox and possibly CBS-Time Warner when the IOC opens negotiations for the lucrative U.S. broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

ESPN's deal covers free-to-air plus pay-television rights in Argentina; all pay-TV rights in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay; and satellite-only rights in Venezuela.

The agreement doesn't cover Brazil where broadcasters have paid $60 million for the Vancouver-London rights.

The OTI paid $29.75 million in a deal including Brazil to broadcast the 2006 Turin Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games.

Rogge said the popularity of the Olympics in South America is growing rapidly. Last month, Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, a first for the continent.