COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Reuters) - Describing the Olympics as the last refuge of family viewing in the United States, Dick Ebersol, the head of NBC Universal Sports, said on Friday the network is ready to battle for American broadcast rights to the 2014 and 2016 Games.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge had signaled earlier on Friday that after several false starts the IOC was finally prepared begin negotiating a deal for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
A fragile economic climate in the United States had prompted the IOC to delay the start of negotiations.
The IOC president told Reuters in July that bidding could be put off until after the 2012 Olympics in London because of the uncertainty of the American economy.
But with the U.S. economic picture improving the IOC said negotiations could start before the end of the year.
“Jacques said a month or two after the Games in Vancouver it would be in 2011 and Carrion (Richard Carrion a member of the IOC executive board who will oversee negotiations) said in the summer he hoped it would be in the first quarter,” Ebersol told reporters after delivering the keynote address at the U.S. Olympic Assembly.
“So what Jacques said today was in keeping with what they said all along.”
Competition for the U.S. television rights is expected to be fierce with NBC, CBS, ESPN-ABC and Fox all expressing interest.
Broadcasting rights are the IOC’s biggest source of revenue for the IOC. NBC paid $2.2 billion for the exclusive rights to the Vancouver and London Olympics.
Ebersol said, his network is ready to begin negotiations whenever the IOC wants and is feeling lucky about NBC’s chances of retaining the property.
“You have no choice,” said Ebersol. “You go by what they say and when they want to do it.
“I have been so lucky for such a long period of time that I’m going to just keep rubbing my rabbit’s foot.”
Editing by Alastair Himmer