No Olympic TV Rights? No Problem!

By Alex Weprin 

NBC will not be the only U.S. TV network covering the London Olympics. CNN and ESPN will be covering the games too, though because NBC has the exclusive rights, they will have to improvise a bit. Neither organization is allowed to broadcast from inside any of the Olympic venues.

CNN’s coverage will feature “Piers Morgan Tonight” on CNN, “World Sport” on CNNI and “Morning Express” on HLN.

CNN has secured a studio with “a panoramic view of Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium” where “PMT” and “World Sport” will originate from. “PMT” has already interviewed Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and will likely be trying to convince others to hop over to their studio for a chat as the games progress. “World Sport” will update CNNI viewers on the latest news from the games, while HLN will feature packages about athletes, as well as reactions from some of their hometowns.

As the country’s largest sports channel, ESPN has to cover the games well, all while not having access to many of the venues or players. Some of ESPN’s people on the ground explain the challenges to the network’s Front Row blog:

“We’ll have to use buses, trains and The Tube [London’s underground transport system] because media buses are all on set schedules, and we have to chase down our own sound,” Spencer says.

He then laughs, adding, “Because we don’t have access at the venues, we’ll be doing what we did in Vancouver [at 2010 Winter Olympics] where we’d meet the athletes at a muffler shop right outside the Village.”

That raises a question and inspiration for Watilka, who says, “I’ve been part of our international soccer coverage [FIFA World Cups, EUROS], but we were rights holders for those. It will be interesting to see the other side of the coin as a non-rights holder covering an event of this scale. The thought of providing extensive coverage despite severe limitations definitely gets the competitive juices flowing.”