SBD/July 18, 2012/Media

BBC Retains U.K. Olympic Broadcast Rights Through '20 Games

BBC's Olympic coverage goes back to 1928 when it broadcast the Games on radio
The BBC has “retained the broadcast rights to the Olympic Games until the end of the decade, encompassing the next two winter and two summer Games,” according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. The BBC's association with the Olympics “goes back to 1928, when it first broadcast its radio coverage.” It has shown “every Olympics since the Rome Games of 1960 live on television in an unbroken sequence.” Although the IOC “investigated the possibility of splitting the coverage between a free-to-air broadcaster and a pay-TV operation, as is the case in Italy, the BBC was desperate to retain its exclusivity.” After last year “cutting its sports rights budget by a fifth, the BBC renegotiated its Formula One deal to save money and now shares the rights with BSkyB.” It also has “withdrawn from horse racing and cut back on darts, tennis and snooker coverage.” But the Olympics, which the BBC “will broadcast across 26 channels from London this summer, is considered a prime vehicle to demonstrate the corporation's public service role in bringing large audiences together for major events” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Georg Szalai notes financial terms and other bidders “weren't disclosed, but the BBC was expected to face more competition from traditional and new media and technology players for the rights.” BBC COO Dominic Coles, who negotiated the deal, said, “It’s vital that big national and international events like the Olympic Games remain free-to-air where they can be watched by the greatest number of people" (, 7/18).

THE GAME PLAN: The GUARDIAN’s Josh Halliday noted the BBC will “send 765 staff to cover the Olympic games in London,” and the amount is “an increase on the 493 people the broadcaster sent to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.” BBC Sport Head of Major Events Dave Gordon said, "I look on it as a reminder of how passionately the audience cares what the BBC does and the way we do it. We've a hard-earned reputation for doing the Olympics well." The BBC is “turning BBC1 and BBC3 into its flagship Olympics channels, with BBC1 showing wall-to-wall coverage of the games except for traditional news bulletins.” Gordon said that he was “confident the BBC would not face the kind of criticism it attracted for its coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, but admitted the broadcaster will get nervous if Team GB's medal haul did not match expectations” (GUARDIAN, 7/17).
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