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The Olympics TV deal & UK listed events: what are the options for Discovery in the UK?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 By Paul Shapiro, Ben Rees

In June 2015 the global media company Discovery Communications, the owner of Eurosport,1 acquired the exclusive rights for the 2018-2024 Summer and Winter Olympic Gamesin a deal worth €1.3bn (roughly £922m).2 The deal is in respect of all platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription/pay-TV television, internet and mobile phone across 50 European countries and territories.3 In the UK, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) had already entered into a deal, with the BBC, for the broadcast of the 2018 and 2020 Olympic Games; meaning that Discovery’s rights in this territory will take effect for the 2022 Winter Olympics.4

Historically, the IOC has sold the European rights in a number of ways – for example, in 2009, the sports advertising and marketing agency SPORTFIVE acquired exclusive rights to 40 European territories for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games;5 alongside this, the IOC sold the rights for the six most profitable European territories – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom – on an individual basis. In contrast to this approach, the collective sale to Discovery has the obvious benefits to the IOC of simplicity and ease of negotiation, perhaps at the cost of a slightly reduced value in the rights as compared with selling on an individual basis.

This new deal raises the immediate question as to how, as the pan-European exclusive rights holder, Discovery intends to exploit its newly acquired rights. Within the Olympic charter there is a commitment by the IOC to take “all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world for the Olympic Games .”6 Putting this pledge into practical effect, the IOC mandated that Discovery must show 200 hours of each Summer Olympic Games and 100 hours of each Winter Olympic Games on free-to-air television in each Games period.7 There is however more stringent domestic legislative regimes across Europe which seek to ensure that treasured sporting events are broadcast at no cost to the consumer.

This article considers the UK regime on broadcasting ‘listed events’ and the options open to Discovery in broadcasting the Olympics in the UK.

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Written by

Paul Shapiro

Paul Shapiro

Managing Associate, Northridge

Paul is a Managing Associate at Northridge. He specialises in commercial and regulatory advice to clients in the sports and media sectors. Paul’s experience includes acting for athletes, brands and rights holders on sponsorship, licensing and merchandising programmes. He also regularly advises on governance issues and financial regulation in the sport and on player contracts, football transfers and image rights structures.

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Ben Rees

Ben Rees

Associate, Northridge

Ben is a commercial litigator, with a particular focus on the sports sector. He works closely with sports governing bodies, teams, broadcasters and other commercial parties in relation to High Court litigation, arbitral proceedings (including before the Court of Arbitration for Sport), disciplinary cases (including before FIFA bodies) and regulatory matters.

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