AP Interview: IOC president says negotiations on US TV rights to begin by early next year

The long-delayed negotiations on Olympic television rights in the United States should begin by early next year, IOC president Jacques Rogge said Friday.

Rogge told The Associated Press that the International Olympic Committee is now ready to move because of signs of improvement in the U.S. economic situation and advertising market.

Rogge said he expects a half dozen media companies to bid for the lucrative rights and singled out Fox as a potential contender.

At stake are the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. U.S. rights represent the biggest single source of income for the Olympic movement.

The U.S. negotiations had been postponed in 2009 because of the global financial crisis. The IOC then planned to seek a deal after the Winter Olympics in February, but the talks were put off again.

"We will most likely start negotiations either at the end of this year or in the beginning of next year," Rogge told the AP in a telephone interview. "The economy is improving, and the economy is definitely the major factor for which we waited.

"Broadcasters in the United States are funded exclusively by advertising. We now see signals and we hear from our partners in the advertising world that advertising is coming up. So we are waiting for that to negotiate."

Rogge said he expects bids from "all the major players in the United States." That would include Olympic incumbent NBC, CBS and Turner, ESPN-ABC and Fox.

In 2003, NBC outbid Fox and ESPN-ABC to secure the rights to the Vancouver Games and 2012 London Olympics in a deal worth $2.2 billion. NBC reported losses of $223 million on the Vancouver Games in the first quarter. In addition, Comcast — the nation's largest cable TV provider — is still seeking regulatory approval of a deal to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal from parent company General Electric Co.

"I would hope we could discuss with Fox," Rogge said. "We already had a bid from Fox in 2003, hopefully there will be one in 2010 or 2011."

The IOC has already agreed with two other Fox networks in Italy and Turkey that are part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media group.

The U.S. negotiations will be handled by Richard Carrion, a banking executive from Puerto Rico who heads the IOC's finance commission and serves on the IOC executive board.

On a separate issue, Rogge said the IOC is ready to meet at "short notice" with U.S. Olympic Committee leaders to begin negotiations on a long-term revenue sharing deal.

The two sides announced an agreement early this month on an $18 million U.S. contribution to the administrative costs of staging the Olympics, a first step in resolving a long-running financial rift between American and international officials.

Now they must tackle the trickier issue of negotiating a new revenue deal. Currently, the USOC gets a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals — figures that many international officials feel are excessive.

The revenue talks were scheduled to begin in 2013, but the sides have agreed to start immediately.

"It will take some time," Rogge said. "It's not going to be an easy discussion but there is good will on both sides to find a good solution. We want to find a win-win solution in the long term."

Rogge said a solution could help the U.S. chances of hosting the Olympics again. The revenue flap contributed to humbling defeats by New York and Chicago in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games.

"We always welcome a good and strong American bid," Rogge said. "We know they can do it. To solve this money issue can only foster possibilities for the future."