Written by Sport, TV

BBC Olympic Deal

The BBC has just announced that it’s signed a new deal with the IOC for the next four summer and winter games through to the 2020 games in a city that has yet to be announced. It’s not immediately clear how much the BBC has paid, but
This was an interesting deal because of a number of things that have been happening recently.
The IOC has, for the first time in a number of years, decided not to sign a deal with the EBU, through which the BBC has in recent times gained its TV rights. They seemingly decided that they’d generate more cash if they dealt with each of the major European markets individually.
Separately, the recent review of the Listed Events list got shelved. However the list is likely to be revisited at some point soon. And you can expect pay TV companies and major sports bodies to all bitterly oppose various elements of the list.
The IOC, for all their failings, do have an Olympic Charter that states in section 49, paragraph 1:
The IOC takes all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world for the Olympic Games.
While that doesn’t quite promise free-to-air coverage of the games, the phrase “widest possible audience” would certainly mitigate against pay TV. Not that it’s stopped them selling rights in countries like Italy to a pay TV company (Sky Italia), who then sub-licence 200 hours of the summer games back to a free-to-air broadcaster (RAI).
If a major sport were to depart free-to-air TV, then I think that we need to rethink any “state” funding that sports receives centrally. By that, I mean National Lottery money.
Many athletes receive National Lottery funding via UK Sport. Their website explains that as well as cash funding, dependent upon how good the athlete is in their chosen sport, there are other resources made available to them including coaching, sports science and medical support.
Were the Olympics to be exclusively or largely on pay television, then I think it’d be fair to ask the question about why the state, via the National Lottery, is funding those athletes.
On a seemingly unrelated point, the UK Government has this week accepted that state funded scientific research should now be made available free of charge to everyone, and not just those individuals or members of institutions that can afford the expensive subscriptions to journals that allow that access.
I think this translates to sport in the UK. The National Lottery is a state organised lottery with a legislative requirement to distribute a proportion of its earnings to a variety of good causes.
If we pay for them, then we should benefit.
As an aside, I work for a commercial radio broadcaster, and these views are, of course, my own. As an organisation, we might have preferred the BBC not to gain exclusive rights. Particularly radio rights!