The Olympic Games will remain on the BBC until at least 2024 after the corporation agreed a deal with broadcasting giant Discovery to sub-license the rights.
Last year the BBC lost control of the future destiny of Games coverage after Discovery, owners of Eurosport, won the pan-European rights from 2018 onwards, and 2022 in the UK, in a £920m deal.
But despite wider pressure on the BBC’s budgets, the corporation has now agreed a deal that will ensure it has exclusive free-to-air coverage of the Olympics until at least 2024, continuing an association that began with radio coverage of the 1928 Games.
The innovative deal means that the BBC will sub-license (from Discovery) exclusive free-to-air TV and radio rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games.
In turn, Discovery will sub-license from the BBC exclusive pay-TV rights in the UK to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
So while the BBC will have less extensive coverage than was the case at London 2012, it will still be able to fill up to two channels a day with live coverage and highlights, meaning it will show all the key moments, but will have less depth than previously.
Meanwhile, Discovery will market itself as the only place to watch every last moment across an array of live and on demand services.
The new model will kick in from the 2018 Games onwards, with the BBC believed to have paid around £110m for the rights to 2022 and 2024, as well as handing over the pay TV rights to 2018 and 2020.
Under current legislation at least 200 hours of the summer Games and 100 hours of the winter Olympics are obliged to be shown on free-to-air TV.
Discovery looked into the possibility of showing the Games exclusively on its own free-to-air channel before entering negotiations with the BBC.
It is understood that ITV also mounted a strong bid to try to sub-license the rights, with one source close to the deal saying there was “intense competition”.
Seen as the pinnacle of global sport, the Olympic Games are highly valued and hugely popular with UK audiences.
The London 2012 Olympic Games was watched on the BBC by more than 50 million people, 7 million people in the UK accessed the BBC website every day, with 111 million requests for video throughout the Games, and over 2 million people downloaded the app.
It was truly the first digital Olympic Games and the BBC raised the bar in its coverage.
Today’s announcement ensures that the BBC will continue to be the free-to-air home of the best action from the Olympic Games until 2024, bringing the moments that unite the nation on TV and radio.
Additionally, the BBC’s package of rights is supplemented by digital rights to the content it broadcasts on TV.
This agreement marks the first Olympic Games sub-licensing deal by Discovery and reinforces Eurosport as the home of the Olympic Games across Europe, ensuring that every event is available to fans across all screens.
The news follows an agreement announced by Discovery Communications and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last June, which includes exclusive multimedia rights for 50 countries and territories in Europe for the 2018 through the 2024 Olympic Games.
The rights for the UK were included for only 2022 and 2024, as these rights had already been secured by the BBC in the UK.
Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, says: “The BBC prides itself on bringing the biggest sporting moments to the public.
“For many, the BBC has been their stadium for Olympic coverage. It is an event that unites the nation like no other.
“I’m delighted that through our new partnership with Discovery, the BBC will continue to carry the torch for great sporting coverage right through to the 2024 Games.
“While the BBC has had to take some tough financial decisions, this partnership underlines our commitment to making world-class sport available to all.”
David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, says: “Discovery is a passionate and committed partner of the Olympic Movement.
“Today’s agreement is a win for UK sports fans and marks an exciting new chapter in Discovery and the BBC’s partnership on major sporting events.
“For 30 years, our two organisations have chartered new frontiers with co-production partnerships in factual and natural history programming.
“Now we join together once again to bring the most compelling stories of human ambition, sacrifice and achievement to people across the UK.”
Timo Lumme, Managing Director of IOC Television and Marketing Services, says: “We are delighted our partners Discovery/Eurosport and the BBC are collaborating on this long term agreement which is great news for viewers in the UK.
“By sharing the rights, viewers will benefit from the BBC’s rich Olympic heritage and Discovery’s innovative approach to storytelling.
“Together, they will make the Olympic Games as accessible and engaging as possible.”
Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport, says: “We are very pleased that the BBC will continue to bring free-to-air Olympic Games coverage to audiences through to 2024, extending our relationship with the event which began in 1928 and reinforcing the BBC’s long-term commitment to major sporting events.
“The Olympic Games is one of the nation’s most treasured sporting events and this is an extensive package of rights that ensures we can offer ‘the best of the Games’, across TV, radio, online and digital, maximising the reach and impact of the BBC.
“This ground-breaking partnership also shows how the BBC can collaborate and work with others to continue to bring the very best in sport to licence fee payers.”
It is understood that the BBC and Discovery could share production resources and even cooperate over sharing on-screen talent in order to keep costs down.
JB Perrette, President of Discovery Networks International, says: “Since the announcement of our partnership with the IOC, it has been Discovery’s goal to engage and entertain local audiences in Europe with the ultimate Olympic Games experience across all screens.
“To realise this ambition, we will leverage our portfolio of pay-TV, free-to-air and digital services, and collaborate with the very best partners who share this vision – the BBC partnership embodies this perfectly.”
Dominic Coles, COO of Discovery Networks Northern Europe, who was previously the BBC’s head of sports rights, added: “We are proud and excited to be announcing this ground-breaking sports partnership with the BBC today.
“Not only will the BBC be able to continue to play its historic role of uniting the UK in celebrating the sporting achievements of its Olympic heroes, but also Discovery, through Eurosport, will bring additional expert and comprehensive coverage to the 2018 and 2020 Olympic Games.
“Greater exposure for UK Olympians only can be good news for the development of sport and the promotion of Olympic values in this country. Watch this space.”