BBC, Discovery Strike Olympics Partnership Deal for U.K.

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Associated Press

The public broadcaster secures free-to-air rights for the Games through 2024, while Discovery will get pay TV rights in Britain for the 2018 and 2020 events in addition to the previously acquired 2022 and 2024 Olympics.

Discovery Communications and the BBC on Tuesday unveiled a long-term deal covering the U.K. TV rights for the Olympics, with the public broadcaster getting the free-to-air rights in Britain through 2024, with Discovery focusing on pay TV coverage.

Under the pact, the BBC will sub-license from Discovery exclusive free-to-air audio-visual and non-exclusive radio rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games, while Discovery will sub-license from the BBC exclusive pay TV rights in the U.K. to the 2018 and 2020 Olympics. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Discovery last summer won the rights to the 2018-2024 Olympics across Europe in the first-ever pan-European deal worth $1.45 billion. But in the U.K. and France, the deal covered only the 2022 and 2024 Games, as broadcast rights in these territories to the 2018 and 2020 Olympics had been awarded to the BBC and France Televisions, respectively.

At the time, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said that they hoped to be sub-licensing rights in strategic markets to free-to-air networks while retaining cable network rights, except in countries where Discovery has free-to-air channels. Tuesday's agreement marks the first Olympic Games sub-licensing deal by Discovery, which has been touting its pan-European sports network Eurosport as a key growth driver.

"Today’s agreement is a win for U.K. sports fans and marks an exciting new chapter in Discovery and the BBC’s partnership on major sporting events," Zaslav said Tuesday in a statement. "For 30 years, our two organizations have chartered new frontiers with co-production partnerships in factual and natural history programming. Now we join together once again to bring the most compelling stories of human ambition, sacrifice and achievement to people across the U.K.”

Said the BBC: "Today’s announcement ensures that the BBC will continue to be the free-to-air home of the best action from the Olympic Games until 2024, bringing the moments that unite the nation on TV and radio," 

Added Tony Hall, director general of the BBC: "The BBC prides itself on bringing the biggest sporting moments to the public. For many, the BBC has been their stadium for Olympic coverage. It is an event that unites the nation like no other. I'm delighted that through our new partnership with Discovery, the BBC will continue to carry the torch for great sporting coverage right through to the 2024 Games.”