BBC's Olympic Rights Under Threat From New TV Deal
BBC risks losing "some or all of its coverage" of the Olympic Games after a declaration from IOC President Jacques Rogge that "everything is possible" when it comes to selling Olympics TV rights, according to Owen Gibson of the London 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 maximize broadcasting revenue." The U.K. broadcasting rights are held by the BBC and 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 "could bid in expectation of the legislation being altered, or to sublease some of the rights back to a free-to-air broadcaster." Additionally, there are many more companies that could potentially launch a free-to-air channel distributed via Freeview, cable, satellite and the Internet. ITV, Channel 4, Sky and BT "have also received the tender documents and are weighing up their options" (GUARDIAN, 6/26). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported that Sky Italia had won the rights to the London Games and had done a deal with state broadcaster RAI to show 200 hours free-to-air. Any involvement of pay-TV in screening the Games is likely to provoke opposition in Britain. Consumer lobby group Voice of the Listener and Viewer spokesperson Sophie Chalk said, "We are certain that our members will campaign to ensure that the Olympics remains a listed (protected) event" (REUTERS, 6/27).