Fri, September 20, 2013

Changing channels for Canadian Olympic broadcasts

By BOB MACKIN, Special to QMI Agency


The Olympic flag is carried as fireworks explode during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. (REUTERS)

LONDON - When CTV signs off Sunday after the closing ceremony, Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium will have one more job to do.

The London Paralympics will be live-streamed Aug. 29-Sept. 9 and the consortium will carry the opening and closing ceremonies on its networks in addition to a daily hour-long highlights package.

Then, CBC/Radio-Canada becomes the keeper of the rings. It signed a contract to broadcast  the 2014 and 2016 Games earlier this month.

CBC and Bell, the dominant partner in the consortium, had their joint bid rejected by the International Olympic Committee, so CBC went alone. It is expected to resurrect a relationship with TSN to carry some events during the Sochi and Rio Games

“I'll be fascinated to see it work, the tough thing for our friends at CBC is the quick turnaround, February 2014 is just around the corner,” said the consortium’s executive vice-president Rick Chisholm. “Any time you're working in Russia, we know from world junior hockey championships that we do, it's just plain not easy.”

CTV and Rogers paid a record $153 million to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. IOC marketing director Timo Lumme said CBC’s rights fee for the new package is more than the $73 million it paid for the Turin 2006 and Beijing 2008 package. Lumme did not reveal the price.

Chisholm, a Vancouver native with four decades experience and a Genie Award for the Vancouver 2010 broadcast, heads an army of 450 people at the International Broadcast Centre in London’s Olympic Park. Control rooms back in Canada, however, are playing an integral role.

“We were all in Vancouver, all the editorial and picture grabbing,” Chisholm said. “All we have here is the structure and the look of London, and the reporters here for CTV and RDS. TSN is back in Toronto out of their studio, Sportsnet is back in Toronto. All the control rooms, they're all in Toronto and Montreal at the end of a wire and it has worked flawlessly.”

Ratings for London 2012 have leapfrogged those for Beijing 2008. Canada’s dramatic and controversial women’s soccer semifinal loss to the U.S. drew 3.8 million viewers, while 2.7 million watched Usain Bolt’s 200 metre sprint win. When Diana Matheson scored the bronze-winning soccer goal over France on Thursday, viewership for that game peaked at 3.1 million.

Chisholm expected the biggest challenge in London would be transportation. The consortium hired a company of ex-police officers as drivers.

“They might be the most valuable department we have,” he said. “I thought my whole days would be figuring out, ‘they couldn't get there so they couldn't get that story.’ The Olympic lanes have worked.”

BBC is broadcasting select Olympic events in 3-D, but that has not caught-on in North America because of consumer reluctance, Chisholm said.

“I would've thought 3-D would've taken off with these Games,” he said. “In 2008 the economic downturn hit everybody real hard. I still haven’t seen in this business an overwhelming desire by the broadcasters to get into it because they haven't seen an overwhelming demand from consumers yet.”