No Ring: Murdoch Rejects Olympics, ESPN Bullish

Olympic Rings

At least one potential bidder for rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games is set to take a pass. News Corp. was believed to have an interest, but CEO Rupert Murdoch said the company is unlikely to make a bid.

"We haven't thought about it," he said Tuesday at an investor event. "But I wouldn't think so."

One reason he cited: The Olympics are a money loser.

Murdoch did say, however, that if the International Olympics Committee chooses Chicago as the host site for the 2016 Summer Games, acquiring rights for the Fox network "may be pretty tempting."

"But I imagine the bidding will be high. And in spite of all the propaganda and everything -- I don't want to call anybody a liar -- but no one's ever made any money out of them," he said.

A spokesman for News Corp.'s Fox Sports unit did not immediately provide comment on the company's plans.



NBC has carried the Summer Games since 1988 and the last two Winter events. CBS had the Winter Games in 1992, 1994 and 1998.

NBC has maintained that it made a small profit on last summer's Beijing event, although it did not release figures.

Murdoch did say that when the Games are on the air, other networks are hurt from a drier ad market. "When they're on, they do suck a huge amount of revenue away from everyone else -- in a sort of profitless way," he said.

NBC Universal will carry next year's Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 event in London. It paid $2 billion for those combined rights.

Bidding on the 2014 and 2016 Games is expected to begin sometime after Oct. 2, when the IOC chooses a site for the 2016 Summer Games. If Chicago is selected, that could send the price to acquire rights soaring.

Also up for grabs will be rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. The IOC could hold off on opening the bidding process until the economy improves.

News Corp. was expected to make a play along with NBC Universal and Walt Disney's ESPN. News Corp. could carry the Games on the Fox network as well as its run of cable outlets.

Earlier Tuesday, NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker said his company -- which has deep pockets thanks to parent General Electric -- hopes to continue offering the Games after 2012, but only if it is financially beneficial.

"We're not going to put the company in any distress to do so," he said, attending the same event as Murdoch.

Flush with billions garnered from affiliate fees, ESPN could be the most aggressive bidder, and has been vocal about its interest. It would carry games on its family of networks, as well as ABC.

Echoing ESPN's bullishness, although showing some circumspection, Disney CFO Tom Staggs said the Olympics are a "marquee property" and the company will evaluate a bid using rigorous analysis. He spoke after Murdoch and Zucker.

"If we can be a factor there on a basis that makes sense for the business and for our shareholders -- then absolutely we would like to be there, but only on that basis," Staggs said.

Disney reached a deal this month to acquire Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion that could drain some company-wide resources.

1 comment about "No Ring: Murdoch Rejects Olympics, ESPN Bullish".
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  1. Joe Jacobs, September 16, 2009 at 10:43 a.m.

    Mr. Murdoch misses the point that when you nail an event like the Olympics, you DO suck up lots of ad revenue... revenue that would have gone to a competitor. So while you may make a small profit (or even take a loss) you do some harm to those same competitors who are making do with less cash flow.

    Thus the Olympics can be a competitive sword that cuts both ways.

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