There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to adequately describe Canadian coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics as Keith Pelley sees it.
The TV executive boasts of plans for the most hours of coverage, the most on-air personalities, the most digital platforms and the most culturally diverse reports.
Pelley’s got a lot riding on his promises.
He’s heading up a broadcast consortium, made up of various CTV and Rogers media outlets, that spent a staggering $90 million US for rights to the Games just before one of the worst economic downturns in recent history.
With the Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., just about a year away, the stakes are high for the ambitious broadcast plans, which include 11 TV networks, 10 radio stations, 91 on-air personalities, a dedicated website and various blogs.
“There’s not a bigger television event in the history of Canada, there’s not a bigger media event in the history of Canada, there’s not a bigger event this century,” says Pelley, president of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.
“So our coverage has to reflect the magnitude of what this event really is and that’s why we’re moving at such a feverish pace, to make this as inspiring as we can.”
That aggressive push includes securing big-name advertisers to buy into the broadcast. Some companies, however, have reportedly complained that rates for the Games were set too high.
Pelley brushed such suggestions aside, stating that the consortium is days away from finalizing significant ad deals.
Still, one observer said tough times are forcing corporations to turn away from conventional advertising platforms like television in favour of other mediums.
“There are a lot of other options out there, whether it’s digital media, whether it’s sponsorship,” says Brian Cooper, president of sponsorship agency Sports & Entertainment LP, which develops sponsorship deals for clients including Scotiabank, Grand & Toy and Warner Brothers Entertainment Canada.
Others say the cachet of the Olympics can withstand the uncertainty of a weak economy.
“It’s that one event that for 17 consecutive days, no other media entity can touch,” said U.S. Olympic watcher Andrew Billings, author of Olympic Media: Inside the Biggest Show on Television.
“Consuming sports at home is something you can do for free and it’s still the one thing you can do as a whole family.”
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