Coverage of the Olympic Games will remain free-to-air on the BBC until at least 2032 after the corporation confirmed a new joint partnership with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD).
The deal means the BBC, whose coverage of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics attracted a total of 36.4 million television viewers, will continue to broadcast the Games across all its platforms.
BBC director general Tim Davie said: “The Olympic Games is a truly special event – thrilling and inspiring in equal measure – (and) I’m delighted it will be on free-to-air for the UK public. I know the BBC will do a fantastic job bringing all the action and analysis to the public.”
The agreement follows the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award all European media rights for the four Games post-Paris – starting with the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics in 2026 – to the EBU and WBD.
Under the terms of the agreement, the EBU and WBD have guaranteed to offer free-to-air coverage of the Olympics across all 49 of its European territories.
The EBU and WBD partnered to win the rights for the first time in 2015, but that deal did not include the UK. However, the new partnership essentially means coverage will remain unchanged for British viewers, anchored by one network channel, a live action stream and specific events available on demand via platforms including iPlayer and BBC Sounds.
BBC officials were forced to defend the corporation’s coverage in Tokyo after complaints about its live-streaming choices.
“As the BBC is no longer able to offer live streams of every sport we often have to make difficult decisions about which sports to show live and which to show on delay,” the BBC said in a statement at the time.
IOC president Thomas Bach welcomed the deal and the “critical financial stability” it would bring.
“The EBU and its Members provide unparalleled broadcast expertise and reach across Europe, and Warner Bros. Discovery, through the recent combination of Warner Media and Discovery, represents one of the world’s largest media and entertainment companies across all programming genres and platforms,” said Bach.
“It demonstrates the ongoing appeal of the Olympic Games across Europe. As the IOC redistributes 90 per cent of the revenues it generates, this long-term agreement also provides critical financial stability to the wider sporting movement and ultimately supports the athletes themselves.”