TV networks spar over Olympic coverage
By Jeffrey Todd
Guardian Business Editor
As the world's top athletes prepare to compete in the London 2012 Olympics, the country's rival cable companies have been silently squaring off in a bitter dispute over broadcasting rights.
The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) has acquired the exclusive rights to air the Summer Olympics, according to the region's distributor International Media Content Limited.
Well-placed sources told Guardian Business that Cable Bahamas Limited (CBL) has attempted to gain shared access of the feed for months. BCB (commonly known as ZNS) has persistently scoffed at the shared partner, Guardian Business understands.
Under the current system, ZNS would broadcast a retransmitted Caribbean feed of the Olympic Games from Jamaica. The exclusivity agreement means Bahamians will not be able to watch the Olympics through major networks such as the National Broadcasting Association (NBC) in the U.S., the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada, or the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the UK.
"There are five or six major networks deducted to the Olympics, but the Caribbean feeds one," one well-placed source told Guardian Business. "So you are likely to see less than one-sixth of wha is going on. Cable Bahamas went ahead and tried to start negotiations with ZNS in the spring, and asked for the best price and split the cost."
While ZNS was initially interested in a joint-venture, negotiations broke down and fell into silence, sources said.
ZNS is the only entity capable of providing further coverage in The Bahamas. Executives at the network did not return a request for comment.
According to a statement from International Media Content Limited: "IMC will hold any entity, whether broadcast channel, cable operation or any type of business broadcasting the London Olympics without authorization in breach of its rights, and will seek all approximately legal remedies, including damages to the furthest extent of the law."
Michael Moss, former chairman of ZNS, said prior to his departure the network indeed acquired exclusive rights to the Olympics, which cost somewhere in the range of $300,000. Moss added that the final price was the result of intense negotiations "to bring the fee down to an acceptable level."
The former chairman, who left the post in May, said he is unaware of how negotiations went with Cable Bahamas in the last couple of months. He told Guardian Business that ZNS had "first crack" at the broadcasting rights because they are part of the Caribbean Broadcast Association and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Union.
During the last Olympics, he recalled that ZNS's competitors tried to run coverage of the London Games without an expressed agreement.
"We threatened a lawsuit. They were carrying it without paying us," he explained.
The situation between the networks was resolved shortly thereafter, whereby all the networks could be viewed in The Bahamas.
Whether this summer's Olympics shake down that way remain to be seen, although Moss offered what he thought to be a fair deal between the rival networks.
"To me, if I were sitting in ZNS's position, it would depend how much advertising revenue I can get, and how much they can get. They have to decide how to share the pot," he said. "One might say 50/50 is reasonable. But it depends on viewership and revenue."
The London Olympics begins on July 27 and runs until August 12. The Bahamas has 24 athletes competing for gold.
© 2012 The Freeport News