SPORTS

CBC, Bell Media join forces to bid for Olympics

09/09/2011 11:12 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST

The CBC may be back in the Olympic business.

Jeffrey Orridge, executive director of sports properties for the CBC, announced Friday that CBC/Radio Canada will form a consortium with Bell Media to bid on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the Rio Summer Games of 2016.

“We partnered with Bell to marshal our collective resources to put the best bid forward," Orridge said in a presentation to CBC Sports staff.

A successful bid by this new bilateral partnership will combine the strength of CBC/Radio Canada and Bell Media's Olympic broadcasting history to deliver to all Canadians, in English and French, the most comprehensive, diverse, and media-rich Games ever seen in this country, the CBC said in a statement.

The potential deal would also include an extensive digital package, something Orridge places a great importance on.

"Being able to deliver the best possible sports experience to the Canadian public is what our mandate is all about," he said.

The International Olympic Committee is expected to begin the bidding process for the Canadian media rights to future Olympic Games later this year.

"Presenting world-class sports events like the Olympic Games requires creativity and pragmatism", said Hubert T. Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada. "The creation of the Consortium is consistent with our promise to make the best use of our resources.

"I'd like to thank [executive vice-President, English Services] Kirstine Stewart's team for heading up this project with great collaboration and input from [executive vice-president, French Services] Sylvain Lafrance and his people. Pooling our internal resources to create this partnership aligns perfectly with the objectives we set in Strategy 2015."

As far as how the events would be divided should the CBC/Radio Canada-Bell Media partnership win the bid, Orridge said many factors will need to be discussed.

"I think there are a lot of considerations with this," he continued. "One, the Olympics is so big it requires a significant amount of space on the schedule. So we realize that in terms of making a compelling bid, it was very important that we could provide that to the rights holder, to ensure the best possible coverage.

"So we will certainly get together and look at the best programming schedule that will highlight Canadians and showcase the Olympics the best way possible, how ever that rolls out on the respective networks."

Bell Media president Kevin Crull said that a previous relationship between CTV and the CBC for Olympic coverage from 2000 to 2008, which included five Games, made the new partnership a logical choice.

"We have had a long history with CBC in co-producing and delivering the games so it was a bit of a natural," he said.

"What we learned in Vancouver is that more of everything is better [for viewers and advertisers] … so more content, more depth of coverage, more reach on more channels and more platforms."

The CTV-Rogers consortium won the broadcast rights to the Vancouver Olympics and 2012 Games in London.

On Thursday, Rogers Media Inc. announced it is withdrawing from the Olympic consortium after the 2012 Games. It will not take part in the bid for the Olympics.

The last time the CBC was involved in an Olympics as a broadcaster was in 2008, when the company was the Canadian rights holder for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Since that time, several media types have predicted the demise of CBC Sports from a broadcast rights holder perspective, a notion that Orridge dismissed.

“Many people were speculating on the future of CBC Sports and would we be in the game going forward? Clearly we’ve made some significant statements [newly signed deals with the International Skating Union and Rogers Cup tennis] that we are very much in the game and we’re here to not only play but we’re here to win.”

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