As these Olympics wrapped up yesterday, the folks at CTV, TSN, and the rest of the broadcast team probably had bittersweet thoughts. After all, CBC returns to covering the Olympics in Canada with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Some of those people will likely be back as CBC won't have the resources to reach the broadcast level of the CTV-led coalition.
CBC can broadcast events on its Bold channel, which reportedly a lot of people don't get, but can't broadcast on its CBC News Network. TSN will certainly carry some events; Rogers Sportsnet might be in the mix as well. The difference is that CBC will carry the major events, and CBC will decide which events get put on non-CBC networks.
For Americans living along the border, a return to CBC means better access to the major events. As we've noted, CBC is in more cable households along the U.S. border and easier to get by antenna than the CTV.
Olympics are generally bought knowing that the Games themselves will be at a loss. Money can be made up by promoting future programs, and the ratings from the Olympics do help. Unfortunately for the CBC, the network can't afford to run the Olympics at a loss, given its budget constraints. The network also has fewer programs to push because of those budget cuts.
When CTV acquired the Olympics, the primary jewel was the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The move also gave Canadians the prospect of an Olympics minus the CBC, diminishing the impact of the network.
The Olympics deal has also sparked speculation that the CBC won't be able to afford Hockey Night in Canada when the next negotiations happen after the 2013-14 NHL season. Of course, the value of the Sochi Games plays in great part depending on whether the NHL players go to Russia and/or the impact of a NHL lockout/strike this season.
Getting the Olympics back in a huge gamble for the CBC. Though the CBC has no choice but to go for it. Sports coverage, whether that is hockey or the amateur sports found in the Olympics, is a lot of what CBC is known for. Prime-time programs stop on the CBC for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The BBC covers the Olympics in a broad fashion, commercial free — a reminder of what Canada could have if priorities were shifted. Right now, CBC is in trouble. The network might not be able to afford the Olympics and Hockey Night in Canada. But the CBC might not be able to afford not having them either.