Bell Media, CBC drop joint bid for 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games

TORONTO – Bell Media and CBC/Radio-Canada are abandoning a joint effort to bring the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and 2016 Olympic Summer Games to Canadian viewers.

But the cash-strapped CBC says it still might muster a solo bid for what is typically one of the world’s most-watched sports events.

Bell Media, which runs CTV and TSN, says the International Olympic Committee rejected two joint proposals over money.

As a result, the two parties “have decided to formally dissolve their bid partnership.”

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson says the public broadcaster is considering its options, which could include pursuing the Games on its own.

They would appear to have little competition — a spokesman for Bell Media says it’s dropping out of the race while Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B), which runs Citytv and Sportsnet, has also said it will pass on the Games.

The public broadcaster is facing steep financial woes after the federal government slashed about 10 per cent of its subsidies over the next three years.

CBC has said it is attempting to reduce its annual budget by $200 million over the next three years, and find $25 million for severance.

The next Winter Games take place in Sochi, Russia, while the 2016 Summer Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

The head of CBC’s sports properties said the public broadcaster had been optimistic that an agreement could be reached on 2014 and 2016.

“Regrettably, that didn’t happen,” Jeffrey Orridge, executive director, CBC Sports Properties, said Monday in a statement.

“In light of this decision, CBC will step back and take some time to consider our options.”

Phil King, CTV’s president of programming and sports, said they “presented not one, but two fiscally responsible bids that are reflective of the Canadian marketplace.”

“Unfortunately, we were not able to reach agreement on terms with the IOC.”

Bell (TSX:BCE) has teamed up with Rogers for the London Games this summer. The two communications giants also worked together on the Vancouver Games in 2010, which carried a $760-million price tag.

The last time the CBC carried the Games was during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.