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KSL-TV's Olympic victory - Broadcasting & Cable

KSL-TV's Olympic victory

Station ponies up the gold to be the official television outlet of the winter games
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In the official city of the '02 Winter Olympics, on the official network of the games, KSL-TV Salt Lake City decided to complete the hat trick and become the games' official TV station.

KSL-TV, owned by Bonneville, which is owned by the Mormon Church, gained that status in a 1999 deal giving the station greater access to Olympic venues and sponsors. KSL-TV has been running Olympics specials and has been delaying The Tonight Show
by 30 minutes for a nightly half-hour countdown to the games.

Value of the deal is estimated at $3 million cash and a nearly equal amount of in-kind consideration: use of KSL-TV's Video West production facilities and commercial time for special event promos, local ticket sales and volunteer solicitation.

Bargaining presented a rather unusual situation, because the Salt Lake Organizing Committee was limited in its choice of an official television station. Because NBC had network rights, "we could not do a deal with the CBS, ABC or Fox affiliate," says SLOC's Don Stirling. "If no deal had been made with KSL, there would have been no deal."

"It is a lot of money," says Steve Lindsley, who was general manager when the deal was made. "But it's also the chance of a lifetime. When are you going to get a chance to pitch nationwide sponsors for a local market like Salt Lake City? The revenue potential was just too large not to try and get a deal."

Among complications is the scandal in which bribes and personal favors were allegedly used to secure the games for Salt Lake City. "Our news is unencumbered in what it covers," says KSL-TV General Manager Jim Yorgason. "Perhaps we haven't broken any big stories, but we have tried to be fair and objective." Reporters at competing stations agreed that the station hadn't backed off any stories unflattering to the games or SLOC.

Another complication: Dave Johnson, credited with landing the Olympics for Salt Lake City but implicated in the scandals, is married to KSL-TV anchor Kim Johnson—although, when the scandal broke, she was working for KTVX, which broke the story. Yorgason said the station has been careful to keep the anchor away from relevant stories.

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