SBD/June 27, 2012/Media

BBC Could Lose Its Free-To-Air Olympic Broadcast Rights To Pay-TV Companies

IOC President Jacques Rogge has "declared 'everything is possible' when it comes to selling TV rights for the Games after London, raising the prospect of the BBC losing some or all of its coverage of the event," according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. A "wide range of bids from traditional free-to-air broadcasters, pay-TV companies and telecom providers is expected by the IOC when it tears open envelopes containing the bids" on Friday. It will then "decide whether to go to a second round of bidding, as it seeks to maximise broadcasting revenue." The U.K. broadcasting rights, "which are held by the BBC, are protected by listed-events legislation that guarantees it free-to-air coverage." But the IOC "has confirmed that a pay-TV broadcaster such as Sky or a telecom company such as BT, which recently paid" US$1.15B for EPL live rights, "could bid in expectation of the legislation being altered, or to sublease some of the rights back to a free-to-air broadcaster." It is "understood that ITV, Channel 4, Sky and BT have also received the tender documents and are weighing up their options." Channel 4, "which will show the Paralympics this summer and bid for Formula One rights, could be a surprise contender." The government "will review the situation again this year, when the entire analogue TV network had been switched to digital." Sources said that it is "unthinkable that the Olympics will not remain on the list in some form." But it is "possible that they could follow the path taken by the IOC in reserving 200 hours of coverage for free-to-air TV (100 hours for the Winter Games) and broadcasting the rest through pay-TV or another platform." Gibson notes the tender document "calls for bids for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2016 Olympics in Rio but also provides the option for broadcasters to tie up rights until the end of the decade." Sources said that BBC is "desperate to hang on to the Olympics, recognising their value" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).

ON TRACK: The GUARDIAN's Ben Dowell notes the BBC is "introducing a new on-screen device into its Olympics coverage which will allow presenters to point to graphics and move them around the screen." The device, called Kinetrak and devised by London-based Mammoth Graphics, "will be used for the first time on BBC1 and BBC3 during the London Games coverage this summer." BBC London '12 Dir Roger Mosey said that Kinetrak "will be mainly used to illustrate what events can be seen where and when, adding that it will be 'critical' for viewers enjoyment that they are able to find the 36 sports and 304 events featured in the Olympics" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).
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