As Olympics TV Rights Bids Begin, The Favorite Is…Fox?

  • Glenn Davis

Today in Switzerland, Fox made the first bid for Olympics television rights. Other main contenders for TV rights include longtime rights holder NBC, as well as ESPN. NBC might be the favorite, except that longtime NBC Sports honcho Dick Ebersol – the man most responsible for NBC’s longtime Olympics affiliation – recently stepped down.

That led to immediate speculation that ESPN would come out on top, but if two people who would know a lot better than we would are correct, you’ll be tuning into Fox for your Olympics coverage soon.

SportsBusiness Journal’s Tripp Mickle and John Ourand discussed the bidding for a recent podcast, and it seems pretty simple: Mickle said Fox will “come with the biggest purse and show the most willingness to pay.” If they do that, it’s theirs to lose. Ourand added that Fox has a particularly large amount to gain from broadcasting the Games – both for the broadcast network and Fox’s cable offshoots.

But it’s not quite that simple – Mickle later ran off a list of reasons an ESPN (and, by extension, Disney)-Olympics partnership might benefit the Olympics themselves, and it sounded awfully compelling: for example, Olympic rings being plastered all over Mickey Mouse and Disney theme parks, thereby catering to the youth population the Olympics covet. Ourand even said if ESPN really wants the Olympics, they’ll get them – he’s just unconvinced the network wants the Games.

It still seems to us, though, like the ESPN solution makes too much sense not to happen. However, it might mostly make sense for the Olympics, and not ESPN. But…the Olympics are one of the few sports television frontiers ESPN doesn’t yet dominate. This is a chance to change that. We just can’t bet against them. If the network isn’t yet sure they want the Olympics, the guess here is they eventually decide they do…much to the chagrin of Fox. Audio of Mickle’s and Ourand’s discussion below.

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