Discovery Communications, controlling owner of pan-European sports programmer Eurosport, has scored the European broadcast TV and multiplatform rights to the next four Olympic Games, through 2024, for a $1.4 billion price tag.
It’s a landmark deal for Discovery, which has been increasing its market share in Europe at a rapid clip in the last several years. It claims to have an average of 10 channels in every market, and with Eurosport, it has a significant multiplatform reach, estimated by the company at 700 million people across the continent.
Another consequence of the deal: European free-to-air broadcasters who’ve previously won the rights to air the Games will have to go through Discovery in a sublicensing deal. On a press call Monday, Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav assured reporters that the company is open to such negotiations and will deliver the required 200 hours of the summer Games and 100 hours of the winter Games on free-to-air TV.
President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach said it went with Discovery because of “their great market performance across the world,” and that Discovery’s reach will significantly expand awareness of the Games. “We’re also sure that we will see the youth being addressed in a particular way” by Discovery, Bach said. Specifically, “this agreement allows us to address the youth on the platforms they use… and not have to wait until they are joining the more traditional platforms… we can reach out to them directly,” he said. “This is what makes it very attractive to the IOC,” he said. Those platforms include live streaming service Europlay, Eurosport.com, Eurosport 360 and the recently launched premium video streaming service Dplay.
Also worked into the deal and a key motivator for IOC: Discovery is partnering with the IOC to launch the new Olympic channel across Europe, which will feature Olympic stories and athletes 365 days a year. “When we look at our assets, we have an opportunity to build the Olympic channel,” Zaslav said. 30 million viewers go to Eurosport.com, and half of sports shown on the network are Olympic sports, he said. Then there are the mobile platforms. “We have a lot of the pieces… The idea is to have the Olympic flame burning 365 days a year,” and to promote stories of the athletes on all platforms.
The length of the deal—8 years—is not insignificant. For the IOC, it’s “ensuring the financial security” of the organization. And “longer term deals help our partners get a greater return,” Bach said. The fact that the deal is so long is not only unusual, Zaslav said. “We know that we can build asset value around the Olympics,” by promoting it online, with direct-to-consumer and on digital platforms. “We have the ability over next decade to take advantage of that… we’ll begin right after Rio.” At that point, expect to start seeing the Olympic rings on the network, he said.
Of course, this is not all good news for free-to-air broadcasters in Europe, who’ve effectively been shut out of the process. The BBC in particular will no longer be able to call itself the home of the Olympics across all platforms, according this article from the Guardian. (The TV rights to air the Games in France and the UK have been previously allocated for the 2018 and 2020 games, but that’s not the case for 2022 and 2024.) But the deal couldn’t be turned down by the IOC. “When you have to ensure widest audience… when you have a goal to reach the youth better than in the past… and when you have a vision with the Olympic channel… then you have to look at the opportunities of such an agreement… and they’re really more than convincing,” he said. “You’ve heard Discovery is open to speak with other broadcasters who want to be part of Olympic broadcasting…. and we’re looking forward to these discussions and agreements.”