Rio De Janeiro Awarded 2016 Olympics

Decision presents good news, bad news for potential network bidders

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil has been awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee said Oct. 9.

The IOC is preparing to accept bids from network suitors looking to have exclusive coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as well as the 2016 games.

The Walt Disney Company’s ABC and ESPN properties are expected to bid for the 2014 and 2016 games, in addition to NBC Universal.

NBC and its sister networks have the exclusive coverage rights through the 2012 Summer Games in London.

The announcement that Rio will host the 2016 games is a mixed bag for potential Olympic bidders.

Chicago, which was considered the favorite to win the games, ended up being eliminated in the first round. President Obama and talk show host Oprah Winfrey went so far as to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to make the pitch for the city to the IOC.

A Chicago Olympics would have been a ratings coup for whichever network acquires the rights. The 1996 Atlanta games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter games each broke ratings records for NBC.

The 1996 games drew 209 million viewers in the U.S., according to Nielsen. They were the most-watched Olympic Games on U.S. television ever until the 2008 Beijing games, which drew 211 million viewers. It isn’t a perfect comparison however, as the 2008 games also had many more events televised than in 1996, and was available on a number of cable channels (USA, Telemundo) in addition to NBC.

While Rio may not draw the attention that a Chicago games could, it is still a better choice for American broadcasters than either of the other finalists: Madrid, Spain or Tokyo, Japan.

Rio’s time zone is just one hour ahead of the U.S.’s Eastern Standard Time, meaning that most of the key events likely to draw the highest ratings could be televised live in the U.S.

Tokyo or Madrid would have meant that key finals would likely be shown on tape delay for primetime.