Turner, ABC consider Olympic pact

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and Capital Cities/ABC, partners on such sporting events as the 1991 Pan American Games and the upcoming 1994 Goodwill Games, are discussing a possible joint bid to broadcast the 1996 Summer Olympics from Atlanta, officials with both companies confirmed yesterday.

“We have determined we are interested in an Olympics package, assuming that it’s financially feasible,” Turner spokesman Gary McKillips said.

“ABC Sports has always looked for creative ways of doing business,” ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel said.

Webs aplenty

Reportedly, the companies may televise the 1996 Games on four networks: ABC; ESPN, a sports channel majority-owned by CapCities; and Turner-owned TBS and TNT. The four outlets could broadcast different portions of the Games simultaneously, giving viewers more choices of Olympic events to watch.

“Turner Broadcasting is currently in the process of determining if it has a role in the 1996 Olympics. Speculation on what that role might be is premature,” McKillips said.

“We have had discussions with Turner Broadcasting and ESPN concerning a co-presentation of the Atlanta Olympic Games,” ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson said in a statement. “However, it would be premature to speculate on any specific proposals.”

Setting precedent

If the companies reach a deal, it would be the first time two networks have bid for the Olympics jointly. Neither company has set a deadline to submit a joint bid, McKillips and Mandel said. Traditionally, Olympic coverage has been the property of a single network, although CBS farmed out pieces of the 1992 Winter Games to Turner and NBC set up a pay-per-view option with three cable channels for the 1992 Summer Games. CBS paid $ 543 million for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Games and NBC’s price for the 1992 Summer Games was $ 401 million.

Initial pricing for the 1996 Games was expected to be approximately $ 600 million, although network executives predict the games will sell for $ 400 million or less. Indeed, the head of the Intl. Olympic Committee recently said bidding for the 1996 Games could be postponed until later in the year if it would result in higher bids.

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