Committee to auction rights to highest bidder

The Intl. Olympic Committee has snubbed the European Broadcasting Union’s bid for the Olympics in 2014 and 2016, ending a half-century partnership in a quest for an even greater jackpot.

Instead, it will auction off the rights to the highest bidder.

The EBU, the world’s largest association of broadcasters with 75 members including the U.K.’s BBC and ITV, Teuton pubcasters ARD and ZDF and Gaul’s France Televisions, paid the IOC $443 million for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and $135 million for the winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.

The EBU has already secured rights for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver and 2012 summer Olympics in London for $700 million.

“We very much regret the IOC’s decision,” said EBU topper Fritz Pleitgen, the former head of German pubcaster WDR. “We’ve worked with the IOC since 1956 to deliver the Olympics to the widest possible audience and ensured maximum exposure of the Olympic Games. EBU members were surprised by the IOC’s high financial expectations.”

The IOC, whose biggest source of income is rights deals, is expecting to haul in close to $4 billion for the next two Games. It defended the decision to drop the EBU, saying the auction would be fair and open to all parties whether they are broadcasting alliances or individual webs.

The 2014 winter Olympics are set for Sochi, Russia and the site for the 2016 summer Olympics will be selected next year.

In Germany, where commercial webs RTL and Sat1 could now bid for the Olympics, ZDF topper Nikolaus Brender was skeptical that the IOC would get more coin anywhere else. “I’m highly doubtful that they’ll be able to get more by doing individual deals in all these countries.”

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