(Adds details, quotes from executives, background)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Canada’s public broadcaster has won the rights to cover the 2018 and 2020 Olympics with the help of the two rival private broadcasters that have wrestled its most popular professional sports assets away from it.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) said on Tuesday it will broadcast action from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, in partnership with telecom and media companies Rogers Communications Inc and BCE Inc.
The CBC has been forced to walk away from much of its sports coverage in the face of federal government budget cuts and fierce bidding for content by Rogers and BCE.
Rogers owns the Sportsnet network and recently won a long-term deal for National Hockey League (NHL) games. BCE owns the TSN network. They jointly own a majority stake in the company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL team and the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association.
Financial terms for the Olympics deal were not disclosed, but executives from the three broadcasters later told reporters that production resources would be shared and that the most popular events would have the broadest possible reach.
“It is a CBC-led games, I want to be clear about that,” said Phil King, president of sports programming at BCE’s Bell Media.
“The CBC put us together, the CBC had the vision to bring all three of us (together) and have been very open about wanting to use some of our people.”
Priority coverage would be done by the CBC and would be available on free-to-air television. That would be followed first by coverage on TSN and then on Sportsnet, both of which are available on most basic cable-TV packages, and finally by coverage on BCE and Rogers’ secondary sports channels, which are available only on more extensive cable packages.
The broadcast partnership model is “fiscally responsible,” CBC Chief Executive Hubert Lacroix said in a statement.
The CBC has said it must “reimagine itself” in a drastically changing media landscape in which viewers increasingly turn to streaming and other online alternatives and in which competitors pay more for premium live sports rights than the CBC can afford.
When the CBC said in April it would no longer bid for professional sporting rights as it tightens its belt, it made an exception for the Olympics and other events deemed of national importance.
Rogers signed a C$5.2 billion ($4.65 billion) deal last year for 12 years of NHL broadcasts, elbowing aside BCE’s TSN sports channel and the CBC, whose most popular program for decades has been its Saturday night “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts.
As part of that deal, Rogers agreed to sub-license some hockey games, including the NHL playoffs and the Stanley Cup championship series, to the CBC for four years.
$1=$1.12 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway and Jeffrey Hodgson