February 8, 2023

BBC to keep Olympics rights until at least 2032 | Sports rights

The Olympics will remain on the BBC until at least 2032 after a new deal with rights holders that guarantees wider free-to-air coverage by broadcasters across Europe.

The corporation’s deal, which secures the same 500 hours of TV coverage and a maximum of two live events as its existing agreement, has been struck with the new joint rights holders the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the US pay-TV company Warner Bros Discovery (WBD).

“This partnership ensures that audiences in the UK will continue to have free-to-air access to the Olympic Games for the next decade,” said Barbara Slater, the BBC director of sport. “The BBC’s ability to bring the nation together is second to none and this new deal provides sports fans a comprehensive, compelling live and on demand offer.”

The deal will cover the broadcast rights for the summer Games in Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in 2032, and the winter Games in Milano Cortina in 2026 and an unnamed host city in 2030.

The new sublicensing agreement follows the International Olympic Committee awarding the European Olympic rights covering 49 territories to EBU and WBD, after a competitive tender process.

European public service broadcasters will be hoping the new joint rights deal will mean wider coverage than many were able to secure in sublicensing agreements reached under the existing £920m deal covering 2018 to 2024, which the IOC made exclusively with WBD, the owner of Eurosport, Discovery and the streaming service Discovery+.

In some markets, such as Norway and Sweden, WBD moved all Olympic coverage to its own free-to-air services, and in the UK it could also have looked at a deal with ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5 instead of the BBC.

The deal WBD ultimately struck with the BBC at that time resulted in the corporation losing the right to air thousands of hours of the Olympics on TV, and stopped it offering dozens of live streams of events that gave viewers blanket coverage. WBD aired 3,500 hours of coverage in the UK.

The BBC said the new deal, which runs from 2026, retains the same broadcast and digital rights as its existing agreement.

“We’re proud to have secured the Olympic Games for audiences to enjoy free to air until 2032,” said Delphine Ernotte Cunci, the president of the EBU and the chief executive of France Télévisions. “This deal is a gamechanger for public service media. Through its members, the EBU has the potential to reach over 1 billion viewers across Europe via linear and non-linear platforms. It will ensure the Games will be available to the widest possible audience across Europe.”

While it will mean that all public service broadcasters in Europe will be guaranteed to be able to air the Olympics, the guarantees are not for blanket coverage.

The EBU said the new deal stipulates that every member broadcaster will be able to air about 200 hours of summer Games and 100 hours of the winter Games on TV, with “with a broad range of radio coverage, livestreaming and reporting across web, app and social media platforms”.

WBD said after the start of the new broadcast rights deal in 2026 its platforms will “remain the only place where fans can get every moment of the following four Olympics”.