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2017: Eurosport now Lord of the Olympic Rings

Eurosport's Olympic coverage deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come into effect, with the European sports channel now bearing the Olympic rings in its on-screen look, as well as on internet-based platforms.

The deal, first announced in June 2015, means Eurosport is now the home of the Olympics in most of Europe until at least 2024. In the UK, Eurosport is an official broadcaster for the 2018 and 2020 games, having entered a sub-licensing deal with the BBC. For the 2022 and 2024 games, the BBC sub-licences the rights from Eurosport. Eurosport only has the Olympic rights in France from 2022, and the European Olympics deal excludes Russia.

(Screenshot) The Olympic rings can now been shown on Eurosport

For many years, Eurosport carried Olympic coverage as part of its former membership of the European Broadcasting Union, the federation of European public service broadcasters who used to hold the rights to show the Olympics.

With the IOC keen to give the Olympics a higher media profile all year around, Eurosport's Olympic connection will be used to promote Olympic sports throughout the sporting calendar. Marking the handover of Olympic rights to Eurosport, J.B. Perrette, President and CEO of Eurosport's owner Discovery Networks International said that the network was now beginning "our journey to redefine the Olympic Games experience and reach more people in Europe."

As the official home of the Olympic Games, Eurosport says it will be creating the "ultimate Games experience on all screens for millions of people across Europe".

Peter Hutton, Eurosport CEO, said:
“Eurosport has a proud tradition of presenting many winter and summer Olympic sports all year round. We are excited that this journey will now culminate with Eurosport being the Home of the Olympic Games.”
“With our planning well underway and the recent addition of Bernie Ross to lead our Olympic Games production, we are making great strides in our preparations for Eurosport’s first Olympic Games in 2018."

Eurosport is currently encouraging UK users to subscribe to its live streaming and on-demand service Eurosport Player, through which the broadcaster is expected to deliver the type of multi-stream Olympic coverage that was available through the BBC iPlayer and Red Button+ last year. It is offering customers the chance to subscribe for 12 months for £19.99, a saving of £40 over the regular fee.

What does this mean for UK viewers?
A deal between the BBC and Eurosport, which sees Eurosport sub-licensing rights from the BBC for 2018 and 2020 and the BBC sub-licensing rights from Eurosport for 2022 and 2024, means that until 2024, the Winter and Summer Olympic Games will continue to be shown on the BBC.

But there will be less coverage on the BBC, with coverage expected to be restricted to one network channel and one additional stream, such as a Red Button service. The multi-stream coverage of London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 via the Red Button will be a thing of the past, with that level of coverage available through Eurosport, although exactly what this will look like for end users remains to be seen.

The Olympics belong to a group of protected events that must be shown on free-to-air television. Although the wording of the official documentation that outlines protected events indicates that full coverage must be free-to-air, in practice this is taken to mean 200 hours of free-to-hour broadcasting for the Summer Games.

The BBC had originally swooped to buy the UK rights to the Olympics until and including 2020 in a purchase made just weeks before London 2012.By 2015, it had been coming under pressure to reduce the cost of sports rights following cuts to its budget, and had already surrendered Formula 1. The BBC/Eurosport deal enabled the BBC to reduce its obligations (and the cost it would have incurred) for the 2018 and 2020 Games, with Eurosport now responsible for providing multi-stream coverage, but at least ensures all the key moments will remain free-to-air on the current home of the Olympics.

Incidentally, previously confidential documents released last week confirmed that had Margaret Thatcher got her way, then major sports events such as the Olympics could have gone over to pay TV back in the 1990s, according to a report by the FT (paywall).