Jun 292015

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.”


  2 Responses to “Discovery gains Europe-wide Olympic broadcast rights ; could the BBC lose the rights…?”

  1. But will Discovery be able to offer the multiple streams that the BBC have provided for many of the previous Olympics…?

  2. Roger Mosey – BBC director of the London 2012 Olympics :

    It’s a great shame that the BBC will no longer control the rights to the Olympics now that US group Discovery has signed a £920m exclusive pan-European deal.

    What we showed in 2012 is that sport can bring the UK together like nothing else, and public service, free to air television is essential to doing that.

    By owning all the rights, we were also able to sharpen the BBC’s reputation for innovation. That’s why we could deliver 24 live HD channels, 3D, a fantastic online service and the range of mobile and social media applications that lived up to the promise: you’ll never miss a moment.

    Despite the bad news, all is not lost for the BBC.

    Discovery will probably sub-license some of their rights, and the fact that the Olympics are a listed event will mean the key action is still available to all. But the BBC’s relationship with the Games, which goes back almost to the founding of the corporation, will inevitably be less rich. That is a shame for audiences, though my friends at the BBC are saying that they will still try to maintain the Olympic link as best they can. We must trust that the International Olympic Committee recognises just how much they owe to the BBC’s commitment over so many decades..

    This outcome is not, I think, just a function of the size of the licence fee. The fact is that public service broadcasters the world over are losing key rights to the soaraway inflation caused by pay TV. It is impossible to imagine that the BBC could ever be in the market again for something like live Premier League, which comes in at over £10m per match.

    I was never a fan of efforts to cap the percentage of the licence fee spent on sport; in the end it has to be a management judgement about editorial and strategic priorities within an annual budget of £3.7bn.

    However, the corporation needs to fight as hard for its reputation in sport as it is currently doing in music and the arts. I sometimes found the BBC Trust less sympathetic to sport than they should have been, given its manifest value to viewers and listeners.

    Most important of all, though, is that politicians should not waver in their commitment to listed events. The biggest sporting moments should be available to everyone in the UK, irrespective of their financial means.

    Imagine London 2012 behind a paywall, with the triumphs of Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis seen only by those who paid a subscription; or contemplate the future of the Champions League now wholly owned by BT or the lessons of cricket only live on Sky. However good a job the pay broadcasters do, public service and maximum access for all are still things that matter hugely in the world of sport.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.