The parent company of the Discovery Channel and Eurosport won the rights to the games of 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024, and also agreed to collaborate with the IOC on its new year-round Olympic Channel.
The International Olympic Committee said the deal covers all platforms, including free television, subscription and pay TV, internet and mobile phones in 50 countries across the continent.
The agreement covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as well as the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics. The 2022 and 2024 host cities have not yet been selected.
The deal could leave RTÉ, which has held the rights in Britain to every Olympics since 1964, out of the picture after its current deal expires in 2016. However, Discovery said it would sub-license rights in many countries, and RTÉ would be a likely contender for that.
RTÉ holds exclusive Irish rights to the Rio 2016 Olympics across all platforms. Rio 2016 will be the 14th Olympic Games to be shown by RTÉ on Irish television.
In a statement, RTÉ said it was disappointed, but stressed that it was “too early to say definitively that RTÉ won’t broadcast the Olympics in 2020 and 2024.”
“It should be noted that rights to Rio 2016 were bought by RTÉ through a third party agency when the EBU failed in its bid for those games and Discovery Channel have said today that they will ‘sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe’.”
RTÉ said it would make every effort to secure the rights for the Summer Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024 “so that Irish viewers can watch home-produced, relevant coverage of Irish athletes competing both in Tokyo in 2020 and at the 2024 Summer games – something that all countries would lose in the event of pan-European coverage.
“RTÉ remains optimistic that a solution will be found”
Discovery bought Eurosport, Europe’s leading sports network, last year for about $345m. Discovery, which is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the home of channels including Animal Planet, TLC and OWN.
Discovery says it has an average of 10 channels in every market in Europe and can deliver more coverage than ever before to a potential audience of 700m people.
“This agreement ensures comprehensive coverage of the Olympic Games across Europe, including the guarantee to provide extensive free-to-air television coverage in all territories,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
Bach hailed the company’s commitment to work with the IOC to develop the Olympic Channel across Europe. The channel, which was approved by the IOC in December, is scheduled for launch next April, a few months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The channel, projected to cost $600m to operate over the first seven years, is designed to promote Olympic sports 365 days a year.
The deal covers all countries in Europe, except for Russia.