The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has awarded the European cross-platform broadcasting rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia and the and 2016 Olympic Games to sports rights distributor Sportfive. The deal covers the free TV, pay TV, online and mobile rights in 40 European countries but does not extend to some of Europe’s biggest TV markets: UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey. Sportfive will now set about finding broadcast partners to sell the rights on to, but as per the IOC’s rules it must ensure 200 hours of free-to-air coverage of the Summer games and 100 hours of the Winter games in each country. Release.
This comes after the IOC ended its long-standing relationship with the European Broadcasting Union, which was previously bought the rights and distributed them for a low cost to 75 public service broadcasters across the continent. That move raised fears that commercial broadcasters, including the sports-rights dominating BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) in the UK, could muscle in on what is traditionally BBC territory — and that such a move would scupper the Beeb’s plans to make the Olympics from 2012 onwards a cornerstone of its investment in cross-platform digital content.
The IOC says the deal “will ensure that Olympic fans across Europe have as much choice as possible in how they follow the Olympic Games across a variety of platforms“, though exactly how much fans will pay for all these platforms is a matter for Sportfive and the domestic broadcasters — broadcasters are only bound to provide 200 hours of free-to-air coverage, meaning that online access could be a paid-for service.
The IOC already has deals with Sky Italia and Fox Turkey for the 2014 and 2016 games and says that negotiations with the remaining countries including the UK will get underway “in due course”.