ESPN throwing its hat in the Olympic rings

Germaine Mason of Britain clears the bar during the men's high jump athletics final of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium August 19, 2008. The picture was taken with multiple exposures. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Count ESPN in on the bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

ESPN chief George Bodenheimer said ESPN/ABC will be in on the bidding when the International Olympic Committee begins to entertain broadcast rights for the next round. NBC holds the rights to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Some element of mystery surrounds the broadcast rights for the upcoming competitions, including the matter of how many of the Games will be awarded and when the bidding will start. It’s likely that only the 2014 and 2016 Olympics will be up for grabs, and that the bidding period could happen between now and October 2009.

“If I was holding the auction, I would definitely want to hold it (soon) after this Olympics,” ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said.

Likely to bid are NBC, flush with success from the Summer Games after a string of disappointing ratings, as well as Disney’s ESPN/ABC and perhaps Fox and CBS.

Bodenheimer said that all media companies are taking note of the ratings successes but intimated that their offers would not be blank checks.

“It still has to make business sense,” Bodenheimer said Tuesday.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter