CBC to remain Canada's home for Olympic coverage through 2032
Exclusive rights agreement could include possible home Games in Vancouver in 2030
The Olympics are set to travel from France to Australia over the next decade. In between, there might even be a stop in Canada.
And throughout it all, CBC and Radio-Canada will remain Canada's home for Olympic coverage.
CBC/Radio-Canada announced a new partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday that features exclusive Olympic broadcast rights for the network through the 2032 Brisbane Games. The current deal had been set to expire at the conclusion of Paris 2024.
Chris Wilson, executive director of CBC Sports, said it was exciting that the Olympic partnership, which he said was in discussion for a "long time," was finally official.
"It's the biggest thing we do as a company. It draws the biggest audiences. It is one of the most relevant things we do that brings the country together," Wilson said. "And so I really believe it just sort of cements, as part of our mandate, a really major programming pillar for the company as a whole."
The agreement, which covers all media platforms, includes a commitment from CBC/Radio-Canada to broadcast at least 200 hours of the Summer Games and 100 hours of the Winter Games on free-to-air television.
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Wilson would not disclose the rights fees, which are confidential with the IOC. However, he said it was not an "open-bid" process.
"It was us talking with the IOC and expressing interest to continue and them realizing that we're a committed partner that doesn't just bring light to the Olympic movement for 17 days every two years."
IOC president Thomas Bach said he was proud of the partnership.
"This agreement demonstrates a commitment to the Olympic values, the Olympic Games and the development of sport. This agreement will support athletes at all levels in Canada and around the world," Bach said.
Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, echoed the sentiment.
"The Olympics are the culmination of so many athletes' dreams. As Canada's public broadcaster, we're proud to share their journey, from local competitions across the country all the way through to national and world championships throughout the year," Tait said.
"It's an honour to be able to continue sharing these great stories with Canadians for years to come."
Possible home Games
Except for 2030, every Olympics included in the deal has already been awarded to a host country. The Summer Games will move from Paris in 2024 to Los Angeles in 2028 to Brisbane in 2032, while the 2026 Winter Games are set for Italy.
If the bid is successful, it would mark the first time since Montreal 1976 that a home Games would be broadcast on CBC.
Wilson compared the possibility to "an exciting home playoff game."
"To do one at home, which we haven't done in a long time, would just be that little extra jump, the extra little shot of espresso, if you will, on every part of our operation," he said.
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Evolving consumption habits
By 2030, the way the Olympics are consumed could be very different from the past two Games in Tokyo and Beijing.
Already, viewers are beginning to move away from traditional broadcast and toward digital streaming. Canadians streamed nearly half a billion minutes of CBC's Beijing digital coverage, up 11 per cent over the previous Winter Games.
CBC/Radio-Canada maintains the right to sublicense coverage to partners as part of the new deal, as it has in the past with Sportsnet and TSN.
Despite the evolving consumption, Wilson noted that the television audience is still the biggest, while digital streaming is made up of multiple small audiences that combine for a large crowd.
"We're not going to be able to predict the future perfectly, but it's going to be exciting for us to imagine the future and take a few risks and offer Canadians different ways to consume the Olympics," he said.
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And though Wilson admits that overall numbers for Beijing were down, it's apparent that general interest still exists with 70 per cent of Canadians tuning into CBC's coverage. That number was 74 per cent for last summer's Tokyo Games, which included a peak audience of 4.4 million people who watched Canada's women's soccer team win gold.
The move away from Asian time zones, the return of fans and a potential home Games are all factors that could spark renewed Canadian interest in the Olympics over the next decade.
"The challenge for us will be to look with fresh eyes at what we do to make Canadians not only aware of the Olympics, but make sure that they are excited for them and aware of the athletes before," Wilson said.
Pursuing Paralympic agreement
The CBC/Radio-Canada agreement with the IOC does not include the Paralympics, which are a separate entity. CBC/Radio-Canada is currently a Paralympic licensee from the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Wilson said the company will be going into discussions with the CPC to discuss next steps.
"But we fully intend to be Canada's Paralympic broadcaster for the foreseeable future as well," he said.