Perhaps the biggest news about the Canadian TV rights for the 2014/2016 Olympics is that there's still no news. The International Olympic Committee's executive and a number of the world's self-styled sport princes are meeting this week in Quebec City for something grandly called A Decade of Change, A Future Of Promise. Even as they do, the IOC has yet to find a Canadian buyer for rights to two of the four Olympiads remaining this decade following London this summer (Sochi, Russia in 2014, Rio in 2016)
Sources with knowledge of the bidding tell Usual Suspects that there's nothing new to report two years out.
CTV and CBC together are the only bidders of record, and their initial offering (believed to be $40-million) was imperiously turned away by the IOC, which pocketed $153-million for the 2010 Vancouver/ 2012 London Games. That earlier bid was from the CTV/Rogers consortium, and it looks like a money loser. Rogers begged off this time, removing the bidding frenzy that characterized the last bids.
There will be brave talk this week about mobile technology and interactivity in Quebec City, but it's an old commodity that is holding up the bids. The big stumbling block to the IOC getting what it wants is NHL participation in Sochi. That won't be resolved till the league and the NHL Players Association finally sit down to negotiate a new CBA. Thus far there hasn't even been a rumour of a first NHL/NHLPA sit down.
The IOC had pooh-poohed a split bid based on NHL in and NHL out of Sochi, so nothing is imminent. But NHL rights are driving this bus.
TSN, preoccupied by the London Games, can bide its time and let it play out. CBC, which poured large amounts into its fall launch parties this month to convince the world that the beleaguered broadcaster is still in business, is less sanguine. It needs the Olympics. Keep them and Hockey Night In Canada and they're still a player. Lose either or both and... gulp.
The other downside for CBC, say sources, is that any money it spends on the Olympics could mean money not available for a bid on keeping the NHL rights. Double gulp.
Institutional Knowledge: True to its word that it's determined to keep HNIC, CBC is now running commercials showing an uncomfortable looking NHL commissioner Gary Bettman looking off-camera while saying, "Hockey Night in Canada is an institution... There's nothing like it on television. Never has been. Never will be."
Swell of him, considering his league is pocketing about $100-million a year from the national broadcaster. And keeping CBC around means a larger pool of bidders for its TV rights in Canada. But with Bettman having gone AWOL on HNIC lately, the cameo is meant to say that the Commish still wants the venerable show to continue on CBC. For good measure, Wayne Gretzky and Wendel Clark second Bettman's emotion.
In CBC's position we'd do the same. And ask Bettman to come on live once in a while. But Richard Stursberg, the former CBC executive vice-president of English Services who negotiated the last NHL broadcast deal in 2005, told us last week that sentiment is nice. But "it's only about the money. It's all that it's about."
Mike 'N JR: Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick have had some rip snorters this season on NBC and NBC Sports Channel. Last night was no exception as they debated whether Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown should have let up on his reckless hit on Phoenix's Mikael Rozsival.
Milbury is the voice of reason; Roenick the voice of "finishing his check" (If we're ever arrested for assault we're going to tell the cops we were just finishing our check.)
What will be interesting to see in the Final is whether those members of the Canadian media who had a cow last spring over the Vancouver Canucks' "flopping and diving" will be as critical of the Kings' forward, who's earned the nickname of "Fall Down" Brown for his histrionics.
All Fall Down: Interesting ratings from U.S. TV this weekend. The Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea garnered a 1.3 rating on FOX while the Los Angeles/Phoenix Game 4 on Sunday earned a 1.1. (Even at that, Bayern/Chelsea was down 28 per cent from Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Manchester United last year.)
Don't tell that to Mike "Doc" Emrick, NBC's lead hand on the NHL broadcasts. Sunday, Emrick seamlessly used an NBC promo to let us know exactly how he feels about soccer.
Discussing the lack of diving calls in the playoffs, Emrick said, "Saturday, Major League Soccer... speaking of dives, that's my own opinion... continues on the NBC Sports Network with a rematch of last year's MLS final... Highly skilled guys, but every once in a while you wonder if they're playing possum out there on the soccer pitch when they get knocked down." Apparently Emrick isn't wondering.
Sport Of Kings: One of the great things about 45 years of NHL hockey in Los Angeles is the tradition that's been developed there for the sport. Okay, not.
First it was TV stations mistakenly showing the NBA Sacramento Kings logo instead the hockey team logo. Then, there's this beautiful Angelena, TV type Liz Habib, calling the Kings/ Coyotes highlights the other night.
The ball! Brad Doughty! You know, she and Ron Burgundy were such a wonderful team.