ESPN has signed an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to televise the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games in South America.
Disney/ESPN has long been named as a likely bidder for U.S. Olympic television rights once NBC Universal's deal expires. The South America agreement is separate from U.S. rights, but the deal could be seen as a precursor to negotiations once the 2014 and 2016 rights come up later this year.
Under the terms of the deal, ESPN acquired the free-to-air TV and radio rights for Argentina, and pay-TV rights for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. It also includes satellite TV rights for Venezuela.
The deal is also significant because South America is poised to host its first ever Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Covering the 2010 and 2012 games could give ESPN a leg up when the rights to those games become available for South America.
ESPN already has a limited relationship with the IOC. Its ESPN Star Sports cable network has rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics throughout Asia, though that channel is a joint venture between Disney and News Corp.
"This is a tremendous milestone for ESPN's business in South America," said Russell Wolff, executive VP and managing director of ESPN International. "This agreement expands our relationship with the IOC and adds the Olympic Games to the schedule of world class events we cover. The Olympic Games are one the world's most inspiring events and we are very excited to bring it to sports fans around South America."From a technical perspective, ESPN already has the global connectivity in place to support bringing Olympic coverage to South America.
As part of its overall international growth and its specific preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, ESPN has dramatically expanded its private fiber-optic network to create the same level of connectivity with international sites that it enjoys between its multiple studios in the U.S.
ESPN has already established full-time fiber links to London, Argentina and Brazil, where it launched its latest HD network, ESPN Brazil, in April. The global sports giant also has two-way fiber links between its Bristol, Conn., home base and its new L.A. Live facility in Los Angeles, as well as with ABC studios in New York and ESPNU/ESPN Regional TV in Charlotte, N.C.
For the 2010 World Cup, it will use fiber to support two real-time video links from Johannesburg, one running to New York and the other to Los Angeles. That two-way connectivity will support 65 hours of coverage originating from two sets in and around Johannesburg, as well as three ENG crews there.