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

Published 11 August 2015 | Authored 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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About the Author

Paul Shapiro

Paul Shapiro

Paul is an Associate in the Commercial team at Charles Russell Speechlys and is a member of the firm’s Sports Group. Paul advises on a wide range of commercial and regulatory matters in the sports industry, with particular experience in sponsorship, merchandising and licensing along with football transfers and image rights structures.

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Ben Rees

Ben Rees

Ben is an Associate in the Commercial Dispute Resolution team at Charles Russell Speechlys, advising on a broad range of commercial litigious matters.

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