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CBC aims to divide pie for coming Olympic Games

CBC wants to strike deals with private rivals to provide cable, broadcast, online and mobile coverage of the Sochi and Rio Olympic Games.

Tory Zimmerman/The Globe and Mail

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the sole winner of the broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, revealed on Tuesday that it intends to strike deals with a long list of private partners to deliver those Games on cable, broadcast, online and mobile channels.

Kirstine Stewart, the CBC's executive vice-president of English services, said the public broadcaster will seek partnerships with traditional and digital programmers, including Rogers Media and Bell Media, which made up the Canadian broadcast consortium for the last two Games. She also said the broadcaster has been talking to Yahoo and Google, and would likely speak with Netflix, Facebook and Apple Inc. about potential content partnerships.

"As the public broadcaster, it's our duty to find the best and most variety of partners so that Canadians get the content when and where they want to," Ms. Stewart said in an interview.

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The glimpse into CBC's Olympics plans came as the broadcaster said it had struck a deal to sub-license FIFA soccer content to the Rogers-owned Sportsnet, including some 2014 World Cup games. Rogers said it had not yet spoken with CBC, but John Levy, the chief executive officer of Score Media Inc., said he welcomed a potential partnership.

"We would certainly consider that type of partnership with the CBC on the Olympics or for other programming initiatives."

The Olympics' return to CBC represents a challenge for the broadcaster, which by 2014 will have just one English-language and one French-language channel on which to broadcast the Games. (It expects to sell its Bold cable channel before then.) When it aired the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it licensed content to TSN. But with thousands of hours of content available, CBC will need to find more platforms to justify what it paid for the Games.

While Netflix, for example, doesn't show live events, Ms. Stewart said it might carry highlight packages viewers could watch on demand. That might prove especially valuable for Games such as those in Sochi, Russia, which is eight hours ahead of CBC's largest audience in the Eastern time zone.

Even now, as CBC mulls licensing Sochi and Rio content to others, the value of those rights is in flux. "We know what the mobile rights are worth, we know what the online rights can be worth – although that's going to take some further investigation, because already after London there's been a huge amount of interest in that online space that I don't think was even there two weeks before the Olympics," Ms. Stewart said. The broadcast consortium said this week it streamed 3.4 million hours of London Games content from its website.

Ms. Stewart noted that wireless carriers such as Telus, Rogers and Bell will also be looking for mobile and on-demand content from the Games. "There's a lot of ways to slice this pie."

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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