In a move that has shaken the European sports media world, Silver Spring, MD-based Discovery Communications has purchased the rights to the European media rights to Olympics from 2018-2024 for $1.48 billion. This doesn’t mean Western Europe or Eastern European or Central Europe, it means ALL of Europe.
Discovery will utilize Eurosport as its main channel for the Olympics, but also air them on the other networks that it owns.
So the company that owns Animal Planet, Discovery, Investigation Discovery, Destination America, Discovery Family Channel, Discovery Life Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and TLC, and has brought Kate Gosselin, Honey Boo Boo, the Duggar Family, and other types of personalities along with various reality and science-based programming to the American landscape has the Olympics.
This won’t affect how you watch the Olympics here in the United States as NBC has the rights through 2032, but if you’re traveling across Europe while the Olympics are on, you’ll be watching the Games on Eurosport.
You may not be aware that Discovery owns Eurosport which is a cable and satellite sports network that’s available all across Europe. Discovery became the majority shareholder in the company in 2014. Over the years, it has aired mostly Australian Rules Football, cycling, motorsports tennis, track and field and other events, mostly staying out of the bidding for major sports properties. It has a pan European feed and local Eurosport channels as well.
But as John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports, Discovery wanted to grow its European business as it owns an average of ten channels in every market and will use them to air the Olympics. This deal will effect 50 countries across the European continent.
As part of the deal, Discovery committed to put at least 200 hours of the Summer Games and 100 hours of the Winter Games on free-to-air television in Europe. Discovery has told the IOC that it will sublicense packages in many markets to maintain that commitment.
The deal will begin in 2018 with the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but won’t begin in France or the United Kingdom as those rights are sold through 2020, but Discovery will then take air the Olympics in those countries beginning in 2022. And as for the United Kingdom, this is a big blow to BBC which has been the Olympics rightsholder since 1960. If the BBC wants to continue to air the Olympics after 2020, it will have to sign a sublicense deal with Discovery.
As Ourand writes, the International Olympic Committee used to sell the Euro rights to pan European broadcasters who would in turn sell the Games to individual countries:
Previously, the IOC has sold rights to local European broadcasters. Or it has sold rights to other pan-European companies such as SportsFive International or the European Broadcasting Union, who turned around and sold them to local broadcasters. This deal is different in that Discovery expects to keep most of the rights, though it does plan to sublicense them in some markets.
“We have 26 years of doing business here in Europe,” Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav told SportsBusiness Journal/Daily. “We were investing all across Europe when most media companies were retreating. We feel like it is a perfect fit. If you put the Olympics together with Eurosport and our ten channels in every country and our broadcast networks, we could bring meaningful value to the events, and we could promote them across all of our platforms.”
An interesting note, Ourand tells us that Discovery tapped former NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol to help in its Olympic bid. Ebersol who was instrumental in NBC’s Olympic broadcasts from 1992 through 2012, is friends with the aforementioned Zaslav and introduced him to his IOC contacts.
It now means Discovery has all rights to the Olympics across all platforms, TV, radio, internet, mobiles and on any technology that has yet to be invented. And Discovery will help the IOC in forming an Olympic TV channel, something the IOC has wanted to create for several years.
So with a $7.75 billion deal with NBC and a $1.48 billion contract with Discovery, the IOC’s financial future is certainly set for many years to come.