Networks in Olympic-level brawl
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A 2006 deal that left SBS with the exclusive rights to broadcast the Vancouver Winter Olympics now has the other two major networks crying foul.
And with the opening ceremonies looming, KBS and MBC are making a desperate last-ditch effort to claim their stakes in the Winter Games.
In a shift from past practice, in which SBS, KBS and MBC shared broadcasting rights to all major international sporting events, viewers can only turn to SBS to watch Kim Yu-na and other athletes in Vancouver this month.
SBS is set to send 50 reporters and broadcasters along with 120 cameramen and crew, while KBS will be limited to three reporters and four cameramen without access cards and MBC will send two reporters and two cameramen without access cards.
The broadcasting rights granted by the International Olympic Committee even place restrictions on KBS and MBC airing highlights footage during news reports.
KBS and MBC petitioned the Korea Communications Commission on Jan. 26, arguing that one network claiming the rights to a major international sporting event goes against the KCC’s universal viewership law.
KBS and MBC contend the three networks can still share the broadcasting rights if an agreement is reached within three days of the start of the Winter Games, but SBS is firm in its stance that all preparations for the Olympics are complete and it’s now too late to make changes.
The dispute goes back to May 26, 2006, when the three networks agreed to share the rights to broadcast the Olympics and World Cup events and submitted an application to co-broadcast the Winter Olympics to the IOC. However, on June 15, 2006, SBS broke the agreement and, with the help of one of its subsidiary companies, paid 11 trillion won ($9.5 million) more than the agreed amount for the rights to broadcast all Olympic events through 2016 as well as the 2010 and 2014 World Cup events.
KBS and MBC asked SBS to cancel the deal, then proceeded to exclude SBS from other broadcast agreements. At the time SBS was willing to rework the deal to include the KBS and MBC, but the two networks did not show much interest. They also failed to show much reaction when SBS proceeded to submit its application to cover the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
But after three years, KBS submitted a request to rework the broadcasting deal on the Olympics and World Cup. And then SBS dug in its heels.
“We prepared for the Winter Olympics on our own for the past three years due to the other two networks’ indifference, and now they want to jump on the bandwagon,” said an SBS official. “Since we are collaborating with another company, it’s not a problem for us to reach viewers in regional cities.”
To complicate matters further, IB Sports, a sports marketing firm, petitioned the Seoul Southern District Court in December to stop SBS from broadcasting the Olympics and World Cup in regional cities. IB Sports claimed it reached a secret agreement with SBS for a part of the stake when SBS purchased the rights three years ago.
However, the Seoul Southern District Court dismissed the case yesterday on the grounds that details of an agreement between the two sides were not ironed out following the initial agreement, IB Sports took no action for a long period of time and such an action could cause significant financial damage to the network.
While it won’t matter much to the viewers which network broadcasts major sporting events, with viewership and advertising profits thrown into the mix, SBS, KBS and MBC are expected to continue to clash over the rights to broadcast the Olympics and World Cup.
By Sohn Jang-hwan [email@example.com]
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