EBU balks at $1 billion price tag

BERLIN — For the first time in 50 years, the European media rights to the Olympic Games will not go to the European Broadcasting Union.

Instead, the Intl. Olympic Committee has awarded the free and pay TV, Internet and mobile rights for the 2014 and 2016 Games to Zurich-based sports rights group Sportfive, a subsidiary of French conglom Lagardere, for a reported $316 million.

However, Thursday’s deal only covers 40 Euro territories — the U.K., Germany, France and Spain will negotiate separate deals for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Olympics, whose host city will be selected in October.

The EBU is said to have balked at the IOC’s asking price of $1 billion for the games.

The org paid $578.4 million for last year’s Beijing event and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and $850 million for the upcoming 2010 and 2012 events in Vancouver and London.

As a result of the impasse, the IOC decided to cut out the EBU altogether.

Including the deals it has already made with Sky Italia in Italy and Fox Turkey in Turkey, the IOC has so far garnered $540 million in European rights fees.

With deals in the four big markets still to come, the IOC hopes to raise over $1 billion — 30% more than it got from the EBU for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.

In Germany, execs at pubcasters ARD and ZDF, which traditionally carry the Olympics as EBU members, are critical of the IOC.

ARD program director Volker Herres said, “The IOC’s high financial demands have really surprised us — we consider the expectations exaggerated.”

IOC prexy Jacques Rogge said the Sportfive deal “marks an exciting new era in the broadcasting of the Olympic Games.”

The IOC has yet to reach an agreement for U.S. broadcast rights. In view of the economic downturn, the IOC is postponing a U.S. deal until after the 2016 host city is chosen. Candidates include Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

The U.S. rights provide the biggest share of the IOC’s revenues. NBC won 2010 and 2012 rights with a $2.2 billion bid.

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