BUSINESS

Discovery acquires European TV rights for 4 Olympics through 2024 for $1.45 billion

06/29/2015 08:09 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 05:59 EDT
LONDON - U.S.-based media giant Discovery Communications Inc. secured the European broadcast rights for four Olympics through 2024 on Monday in a landmark deal worth 1.3 billion euros ($1.45 billion).

The parent company of the Discovery Channel and Eurosport won the rights to the games of 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024, and also agreed to collaborate with the IOC on its new year-round Olympic Channel.

The International Olympic Committee said the deal covers all platforms, including free television, subscription and pay TV, internet and mobile phones in 50 countries across the continent.

The agreement covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as well as the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics. The 2022 and 2024 host cities have not yet been selected.

The deal could leave the BBC, which has held the rights in Britain to every Olympics since 1960, out of the picture after its current deal expires in 2020. However, Discovery said it would sub-license rights in many countries, and the BBC would be a likely contender for that.

Discovery bought Eurosport, Europe's leading sports network, last year for about $345 million. Discovery, which is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the home of channels including Animal Planet, TLC and OWN.

Discovery says it has an average of 10 channels in every market in Europe and can deliver more coverage than ever before to a potential audience of 700 million people.

"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," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Bach hailed the company's commitment to work with the IOC to develop the Olympic Channel across Europe. The channel, which was approved by the IOC in December, is scheduled for launch next April, a few months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The channel, projected to cost $600 million to operate over the first seven years, is designed to promote Olympic sports 365 days a year.

"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," Bach said.

The deal covers all countries in Europe, except for Russia.

"Russia was not part of the offer presented by Discovery and this is it," Bach said. "There is no particular decision behind it."

Discovery said it was committed to broadcasting a minimum of 200 hours of the Summer Games and 100 hours of the Winter Games on free TV during the games period.

"Today is a historic day," Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav said. "This new partnership is an exciting win for European sports fans as we will deliver record amounts of content across platforms."

Zaslav said Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in numerous countries across Europe.

The BBC and France Televisions have rights through 2020. For 2022 and 2024, they would need to try to secure the rights on a sub-license deal from Discovery.

"We understand and have great respect of the Olympic programming on the BBC, French and German TV throughout Europe," Zaslav said. "We expect the BBC will have every possibility to sub-license. They can continue. It's true of a majority of countries in Europe."

The BBC said the Olympics remains a priority for the company and it will talk to Discovery about keeping the rights after 2020.

"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," the BBC said in a statement. "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."

The Discovery deal is the latest in a series of long-term, multi-games broadcast agreements done by the IOC.

Last year, NBC struck a record $7.75 billion deal with the IOC to extend its exclusive U.S. rights through 2032. Japan, China and South Korea have signed broadcast deals through 2024.

The IOC secured $4.1 billion in revenues from global rights deals for the current 2014-2016 cycle.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Zaslav — who worked with NBC's Dick Ebersol on six Olympics in the 1990s — said he decided to push for the rights a year ago after reading that Bach planned to set up an Olympic television channel.

"'When I read that, I thought, that really should be us," Zaslav said. "This is a huge day for us. We have focused very hard in Europe the last several years. The Olympics is maybe the most compelling, unique programming available in the world."

IOC marketing director Timo Lumme said there were other bidders, but he declined to name them or the price they offered.

"We had a wide range of different types of bids. It was a very competitive process," Lumme told the AP.

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