CBS confirms record price for ’98 Olympics

Announcing its acquisition of rights to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, for a record $ 375 million, CBS honchos claimed Wednesday they had snagged a potential moneymaker.

The hefty sum was more than 25% higher than the $ 298 million the Eye web paid for February’s games in Lillehammer, Norway, but that didn’t deter CBS chairman Laurence Tisch from touting it as a prudent investment.

“We will make money on Lillehammer and we plan to make money on Japan,” Tisch said. “We think what we paid this time around is a fair number.”

According to Peter Lund, executive vice president/CBS Broadcast Group, ad rates for Lillehammer went up 20% from the Winter Games in Albertville, France, in 1992. “We looked at that increase and that helped guide our bid,” Lund said.

CBS Sports president Neal Pilson said the network hopes to keep costs down by drawing on experience gained from two Winter Olympics. However, Pilson stopped short of denying it will be much costlier producing the games in Japan. The high cost of doing business, according to industry sources, was a factor leading the other networks, including Fox, to withdraw from the Winter Olympic bidding.

Intl. Olympic Committee’s chief TV negotiator William Pound said Fox was in the running until last Friday, when both sides agreed that the 1998 Winter Games was too ambitious an enterprise for the weblet’s nascent sports division, especially in the wake of the $ 1.58 billion National Football League package it won from CBS.

However, looking toward an important future revenue stream two years from now when negotiations begin for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, he went out of his way to praise Fox chairman’s Rupert Murdoch’s entrance into the megabuck sports rights game.

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