Discovery Wins European Rights to 2018-2024 Olympics

Associated Press
Sochi Olympics Closing Ceremony

It marks the first time rights have been awarded to the same TV company across the continent.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday said it has awarded all TV and multi-platform rights in Europe for the four Olympic Games over the 2018–2024 period to Discovery Communications and its pan-European sports network Eurosport.

In a deal that Discovery said was worth $1.45 billion, the company will become the sole rights-holder on the continent for the Summer and Winter Games over the period.

The European rights to the Olympics have typically been split on a country-by-country basis. Discovery said the deal marks the first time the International Olympic Committee has sold all the European rights to a single media company.

Discovery said in the deal it acquired the exclusive rights across all platforms, including free-to-air TV, subscription and pay TV, Internet and mobile phone in all languages across 50 countries and territories on the European continent. Russia is not part of the deal, as Discovery didn't bid for the rights there.

"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," the partners said. "Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe."

In the U.K. and France, the deal covers only the 2022 and 2024 Games, as broadcast rights in these territories have already been awarded to public broadcasters for the 2018 and 2020 Olympics. In the U.K., the BBC has the rights to those Games, while in France it is France Televisions.

The agreement covers the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 and the Summer Games in 2020 in Tokyo, as well as the  Games in 2022 and 2024, for which the host cities have yet to be picked.

Eurosport has been mostly avoiding big deals for huge sports rights, instead focusing on second-tier sports. But management has said if it makes sense, the network could look at pan-European rights to bigger events.

"Today’s announcement kicks off a long-term partnership between the biggest global sports event, the Olympic Games, and leading global media company, Discovery Communications," the partners said. "With an average of 10 channels in every market and the #1 European online and OTT sports offerings, Discovery and Eurosport will 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. In a world of increasingly “anytime, anywhere” viewing, the Olympic Games are an unparalleled live event that aggregate enormous audiences and capture the world’s attention in a way that continues to become more valuable for marketers, distributors and fans."

Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav on a conference call said the deal was a "game changer" for Eurosport. In a statement, he said: "Today is an historic day as we proudly add the Olympic rings to Discovery Communications’ portfolio of offerings. The long-term programming commitment with [IOC] president [Thomas] 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."

Bach said: "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."

Bach said the deal should bring the Olympics to more viewers in Europe than ever before.

He added: "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."

JB Perrette, president of Discovery Networks International, said: "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 recognized 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."

Dick Ebersol, former NBC Sports and NBC Olympics boss, helped Discovery strike the deal in an advisory role.

Zaslav predicted a "significant return" financially for both partners and said it was key to get rights for a long period. "We can build asset value" around the Olympics, he explained. 

He also signaled that Discovery would, in addition to showing competitions, also highlight the characters at the Games, similarly to how NBC has done in the U.S.

Twitter: @georgszalai


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