IOC awards all broadcast rights in Europe to Discovery and Eurosport for 2018-2024 Olympic Games

A grim day for Europe’s public service broadcasters with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announcement 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, in a EUR 1.3 billion deal.

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.

The announcement kicks off a long-term partnership between the Olympic Games and Discovery. With an average of 10 channels in every market and the #1 European online and OTT sports offerings, Discovery and Eurosport promises to deliver more coverage across more screens than ever before to over 700 million people across Europe.

Discovery and Eurosport’s coverage will be augmented by ‘strong free-to-air access and innovative partnerships with broadcasters’ and distributors to bring the Games to life like never before.

IOC President Thomas Bach said: “This is a significant agreement for Discovery and the IOC, and we are excited to have Eurosport, the pan-European home of Olympic sports, as a partner. 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 and Eurosport have demonstrated a major commitment to the Olympic Games, to Olympic sports and to the future of the Olympic Movement.

“The revenue generated from this long-term partnership will be redistributed by the IOC across the Olympic Movement to support the development of sport around the world. Discovery and Eurosport have also made an exciting commitment to partner with the IOC to develop the new Olympic Channel across Europe. Above all, this agreement ensures that sports fans in Europe will be able to enjoy excellent coverage of the Olympic Games and Olympic sports, both during and outside Games time, on their platform of choice.”

The BBC issued the following statement regarding the announcement: “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.”

On the site David Sillito, BBC Media Correspondent provided some analysis. “We cannot at this point say the BBC has lost the Olympics. It may well be given the chance to lease some broadcast rights from Eurosport. The British Government after all demands that 200 hours of Olympic coverage is provided free-to-air. However, 200 hours is not a lot when it comes to the Olympics.

“The BBC broadcast 2500 hours in 2012 and that’s less than half of the 5600 hours that is actually offered by the Olympics. Pay-TV and the rapidly growing mobile market is at the heart of this deal and it’s a move that has long been mooted. And for the Olympics? A new Olympics TV channel is one benefit, an attempt to try to extend a little of the excitement and attention to the long period between the summer Games,” said Sillito.

Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav said: “Today is a historic day as we proudly add the Olympic rings to Discovery Communications’ portfolio of offerings. The long-term programming commitment with President Bach and the IOC reaffirms Eurosport’s position as the leader in sports across Europe, and will significantly enhance Eurosport’s presence on all platforms.

“With Eurosport’s proud and long-standing tradition of broadcasting many winter and summer sports showcased during the Olympics, adding the Olympic Games, the greatest live event in the world, is a perfect editorial and strategic fit. But most of all, this new partnership is an exciting win for European sports fans as we will deliver record amounts of content across platforms to ensure the Olympic flame burns bright all year long.”

Discovery acquired the exclusive rights, valued at EUR 1.3 billion, across all platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription/pay-TV television, internet and mobile phone in all languages across 50 countries and territories on the European continent. Consistent with IOC and local market requirements, Discovery has committed to broadcasting a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of the Olympic Winter Games on free-to-air television during the Games period. Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe.

With almost half of Eurosport’s existing programming being Olympic sports, the combination of its strong legacy in winter sports, cycling, tennis and athletics, and now the Olympic Games, will allow Discovery and Eurosport to engage passionate fans around these key sports 365 days a year. Discovery and Eurosport will have access to the Olympic emblems and the rich Olympic video library and archive to help solidify Eurosport’s position as the pan-European home of Olympic sports. The partners have also agreed to cooperate closely on the rollout of the IOC’s Olympic Channel, taking advantage of Eurosport’s #1 online sports destination – – and leading OTT service, the Eurosport Player.

JB Perrette, President of Discovery Networks International, added: “We took control of Eurosport a year ago and embarked on a long-term mission to reinvigorate and strengthen its networks and brand. Today’s announcement is an incredibly exciting step forward on that journey. Eurosport’s unmatched technical prowess and ability to deliver the Olympic Games to 50 countries in 20 languages across multiple platforms is an important win for sports fans. We are thrilled and humbled to partner with one of the most recognised and powerful global brands, that not only delivers the biggest global event but also shares our company’s DNA of engaging and inspiring people in addition to entertaining them.”

How can Eurosport reflect the unique ‘nationalism’ of the Olympic Games?

Sports Video Group Editorial Director Ken Kerschbaumer adds: ‘From a production standpoint it will be interesting to see how the decision impacts the industry. First and foremost, the Olympic International Broadcast Centre (IBC) has been the equivalent of a United Nations. National broadcasters from across the globe would descend with production teams to deliver great content to viewers back home that spoke to a nation.

‘But with Eurosport at the centre the question is a simple one: can a single distribution platform truly meet the needs of sports fans for an event where nationalism, as much as anything, is front and centre? Yes there are hardcore sports fans who will watch the Olympics regardless of what channel they are watching but the beauty of the Olympics games is that the story of a German, Austrian, French, English, Belgian, or Italian athlete can resonate much more within their home nation. And the Olympics popularity with viewers hinges on telling that story.

‘Who will bring that national perspective to the Games?

‘There is also another human story that may suffer as a result of the deal: that of sport production professionals and equipment suppliers. The IBC is a facility overflowing with those creating content as well as the gear to create it. Will the massive halls of the IBC shrink to a fraction of their size?

‘There is little doubt that the production quality offered up by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) will continue to deliver a compelling and top-level production that will meet the needs of sports fans. But the loss of the personal touch afforded by national broadcasters and the sense of international community that has resonated within the IBC and at the venues for decades is already missed.’

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