USOC backs off disputed Olympic TV network plans

The U.S. Olympic Committee had everything to lose and nothing to air.

That made the decision to postpone plans for its own television network, in deference to the International Olympic Committee's wishes, an easy one.

"There is no question that we underestimated the intensity of the reaction that we got from multiple constituents," USOC chairman Larry Probst said Sunday, after meeting with IOC president Jacques Rogge and deciding to postpone the effort.

The negative reaction came mainly from the IOC and TV partner NBCGE. All of it seemed to be hurting the effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

With the vote only seven weeks away, Probst decided it was best to set this dispute aside and remove an easy reason for IOC members to vote against Chicago on the Oct. 2 ballot against Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

"The USOC wants to do everything it can to help support the Chicago bid," Probst said. "We want to see Chicago win the bid. Anything we can do to help to support them, we're going to do that."

Patrick Ryan, the chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016, said he appreciated the USOC's decision.

"We applaud Larry Probst and the USOC for making a strong statement of partnership by stating that the USOC would secure the full support and cooperation of the IOC before moving forward with the Olympic Network," Ryan said in a statement.

The IOC criticized the USOC for "unilaterally" announcing the launch of the TV network on July 8, saying it raised complex legal questions and could jeopardize relations with Olympic broadcaster NBC.

One big question was, 'What's the rush?'

Other than suffering some embarrassment, delaying things is essentially a no-lose proposition for the USOC, which still had no definite start-up date, no programming and not enough cable carriers committed to airing the network despite its deal with Comcast.

Probst said the USOC anticipated a neutral-to-positive reaction, not what it got, and conceded "the execution on this could've been better."

The IOC welcomed the decision.

"It was a good, positive and productive meeting," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "We look forward to having more detailed information on their proposal."

Probst said he and Rogge agreed to meet soon.

"I think we're moving in a positive direction," Probst said. "We want to try to get to the point where we've addressed all their issues and concerns as quickly as possible."

Resolving the TV deal goes along with the USOC and IOC willingness earlier this year to set aside, for now, the contentious issue of the USOC's share of Olympic revenues.

Playing a role in all these discussions is NBC, which holds the U.S. broadcast rights through the 2012 London Olympics and was miffed at the USOC's plans to start a network that could eventually be competition.

The USOC tried to cut a deal with NBC and its cable partner, Universal Sports, over the new network but when negotiations broke down, the deal with Comcast was struck.

NBC will pay $2.2 billion to televise the Vancouver and London Olympics. The network has said it plans to be among the U.S. networks bidding for rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and 2016 Summer Olympics.

NBC officials said they did not have comment on the USOC announcement.

The USOC envisions the network as a way to keep Olympic sports in front of viewers beyond the games. The project was intended to benefit smaller sports that struggle to find air time outside of the Olympics.

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