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Sport

Discovery buys European broadcast rights to Games from 2018-2024

PARIS (Reuters) - Discovery Communications has agreed to pay 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion) to screen the Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024 across Europe, beating national public broadcasters that have traditionally shown the event.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Discovery, which is the parent of pay-television channel Eurosport, after a competitive auction that attracted more than 10 bids, said Timo Lumme, a marketing executive at the IOC.

“This is the first time we have licensed these rights to a

single media company to manage and broadcast all the games

across all the platforms,” said Lumme.

The deal shows Discovery’s ambitions for Europe where it bought out last year its partner in Eurosport, French broadcaster TF1. The company, which also operates cable channels in the United States such as Animal Planet and Discovery, has said buying more sports rights could weigh on its short-term profitability.

Shares in Discovery were up 1 percent to $34.20 in morning trade, compared with a 0.9 percent decline in the NASDAQ 100 index, affected by the Greek debt crisis.

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Discovery’s deal with the IOC covers the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018, and the 2020 Games in Tokyo in 2020, as well as the Olympic Games in 2022 and 2024, the host cities of which have yet to be selected.

All types of media are covered such as free-to-air, pay-TV, cable, satellite, as well as the Internet.

The deal includes 53 countries in Europe, but excludes Russia as well as the rights to France and Britain in 2018 and 2020 since those rights have already been sold.

The IOC’s Lumme told Reuters the European broadcast rights from the four Olympics Games from 2018 to 2024 could bring in 1.6 billion euros in total, about 10 percent higher than the last period, although the Russian rights have not yet been sold.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, said the company would sub-license some of the rights to national broadcasters such as the BBC or France

Televisions to maximise the reach of the Games.

Discovery has also made specific country-based commitments to the IOC that a certain amount of the Games will be available on free-to-air TV and not only for paying customers.

“In some countries our own properties will be enough and in others we will sublicense,” Zaslav said.

“In the UK we expect to talk to the BBC and other broadcasters as to whether they are interested in taking up some of the rights,” he said, adding similar moves could be expected with public broadcasters in France and Germany.

The BBC said it would want to talk to Discovery about the UK free-to-air rights to the 2022 and 2024 Games.

“It is not unprecedented for sports rights to be sold on a pan-territory basis, and the BBC has acquired other sports rights via sub-licensing deals with either agencies or broadcasters,” it said.

Eurosport is largely available as a pay-TV offering in Europe, but it also operates free-to-air channels in Italy, Germany, Britain, Spain and several Nordic countries. It is best known for covering sporting events such as cycling’s Tour de France, as well as athletics, tennis and winter sports.

Billionaire cable entrepreneur John Malone is a long-time board member of Discovery, holding 0.39 percent of the capital and 28.7 percent of the voting rights. Malone also owns a significant stake in Europe’s largest cable company Liberty Global.

Editing by Mark Potter and Keith Weir

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