The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that all TV and multi-platform broadcast rights in Europe for the four Olympic Games in the 2018–2024 period have been awarded to Discovery Communications, the parent company of Eurosport.
It means the BBC could lose coverage of the Games in the UK from 2022, although Eurosport’s parent company Discovery may lease back some of the rights.
The agreement covers the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018, and the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo in 2020, as well as the Olympic Games in 2022 and 2024, the host cities of which have yet to be elected.
As part of the deal, Discovery has committed to broadcasting a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of Olympic Winter Games on free-to-air TV services during the period. Discovery already operates Freeview channel Quest in the UK, through which it could provide coverage.
Discovery and Eurosport confirmed they will develop a new Olympic TV Channel across Europe.
“This agreement ensures comprehensive coverage of the Olympic Games across Europe, including the guarantee to provide extensive free-to-air television coverage in all territories.”
Discovery could sub-licence “a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe”, according to the International Olympic Committee, which could pave the way for European broadcasters such as the BBC to continue offering some coverage of the Games from 2022.
In the UK, the deal affects the 2022 Winter and 2024 Summer Olympics, as the current BBC agreement from 2012 covers the 2018 and 2020 Games. The Olympic Games are listed as part of the Television Crown Jewels, and must be made available subscription free.
The BBC had in previous years been awarded the rights as part of a deal between the IOC and a group of public broadcasters across Europe. The BBC had 2,500 hours of live coverage from the London 2012 Games and 650 hours from the Sochi Winter Olympics last year but the days of its wall-to-wall coverage could be numbered.
If the BBC wants to broadcast the Olympics in future it will now have to negotiate with a rival broadcaster, Discovery.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The Olympic Games remains a priority for the BBC and we have already secured the TV, radio and online rights to the next three Olympic Games – 2016, 2018 and 2020.
“More than 90% of the UK population watched the BBC’s coverage of London 2012 and it remains one of the most popular free-to-air, sporting events for UK viewers.
“It is not unprecedented for sports rights to be sold on a pan-territory basis and the BBC has acquired other sports rights via sub-licensing deals with either agencies or broadcasters.
“We will be seeking further discussions with Discovery about the UK free-to-air rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games in due course.”