UK: Discovery's Olympic Games Bid

Last Updated: 24 July 2015
Article by Paul Herbert

1. What are the terms of the agreement between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Discovery?

From what we can glean from the IOC's announcement on June 29 2015, the IOC has entered into an agreement with Discovery Communications, a US based global media company and the parent company of Eurosport. The €1.3bn deal grants Discovery the exclusive broadcast rights in Europe (excluding the Russian Federation) to the four Olympic Games events taking place during 2018-2024. However in France and the UK the rights only apply during 2022-2024 as the rights for 2018-2020 have already been awarded. The Discovery deal includes rights across all platforms including free-to-air television, subscription/pay-TV television, internet and mobile.

2. What is the legal framework around the distribution of broadcast rights for the Olympic Games? Is Discovery under any obligation to sublet the rights to other broadcasters or could it retain sole rights to show the Olympics?

Prior to this landmark agreement the European broadcast rights to the summer and winter Olympics have allocated on a country by country basis pursuant to an umbrella agreement entered into between the IOC and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) the body which represents public service broadcasters in European and which of course includes the BBC.

Pursuant to the Audio Visual Media Services Directive 2010 (which replaced the Television Without Frontiers Directive 1989) EU Member States are required to ensure that important sporting and cultural events are preserved for the largest audiences. In the UK this requirement was reflected in The Broadcasting Act 1996 which introduced the concept of 'Listed Events' – the "crown jewels" sporting events, as specified by the Secretary of State and regulated by Ofcom in its Code on Listed Events. The Olympics are listed as a "Category A" event, together with the Fifa World Cup, Wimbledon Championships, FA Cup Final and so on, which means that they cannot be broadcast live on an exclusive basis without Ofcom's prior consent.

Before granting such consent Ofcom must be satisfied that certain criteria concerning the acquisition of the rights and the provision of the broadcast service are met. Where the proposed broadcaster is not one of the UK's public service broadcasters (The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or Five, each of which is available free to air on all the main broadcast platforms in the UK) Ofcom must have regard to the steps the broadcaster proposes to take to ensure that the event is transmitted on free television to ensure that a substantial proportion of the population is not deprived of the possibility of following the event. Usually this means some form of sub-licence to one of the PSBs.

In order to meet IOC sensitivities and the various local Listed Events requirements, Discovery has committed to ensuring that a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of the Olympic Winter Games are broadcast on free-to-air television. Since Discovery currently does not have a free-to-air channel in the UK with the coverage of any of the PSB Channels, it will need to sub-license coverage to one of the PSBs in order to have any prospect of obtaining Ofcom approval.

3. What has been the reaction from the BBC?

The Olympic Games remain "a priority" according to the BBC, who have broadcast them continuously since 1960 and invariably enjoyed huge audiences. According to the BBC more than 90% of the UK population watched the BBC’s coverage of London 2012 at one time or another and the Olympic Games and it remains one of the most popular free-to-air, sporting events for UK viewers.

The BBC has pointed out that it has acquired other sports rights via sub-licensing deals with either agencies or broadcasters in the past. The BBC has said it will be seeking further discussions with Discovery about the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games "in due course".

4. Could the pan-European deal be challenged?

Almost certainly not (on competition grounds at least) unless possibly it also granted Discovery exclusive options to acquire future Games thereby closing out competitors.

5. With the next three Games set to be on the BBC, what will be the key features of any rights negotiations between Discovery and the BBC? What are your predictions?

Negotiations are likely to centre on the extent and the nature of the coverage that Discovery is willing to sub-license to the BBC. The negotiations will also be affected by Ofcom's position as their approval to any eventual deal is crucial. Discovery has said that it will provide a minimum of 200 hours for free-to-air television. Significant as this may sound, it pales into insignificance by reference to the estimated 2,500 hours of coverage the BBC broadcast during the 2012 Olympics. Secondly, quantity is one thing, but what about quality – which events and which stages of those events?

Furthermore, apart from being the only UK rights holder to the Olympics to date, the BBC has also filmed and produced the Games – a massive logistical undertaking requiring very high levels of skill and experience, not to mention resources. Quite how UK coverage of the 2022 and 2024 Games could be produced without the BBC's involvement is, at this distance at least, hard to imagine. The BBC has worked hard to market itself as the British 'home of the Olympics' and it will therefore be keen to ensure it still has a meaningful part to play in the future. The vast majority of UK viewers will be wishing likewise.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions