IOC retains clip rights for Olympic Channel, set to go to market in Australia

The International Olympic Committee has retained clip rights in 68 territories that it will exploit on the Olympic Channel during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as it seeks to drive greater engagement for its digital media platform.

Having launched the Olympic Channel as the Rio 2016 games drew to a close, the IOC is now looking at ways to increase traffic on the platform but without stepping on the toes of rights-holding broadcasters.

Live coverage of the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympics was streamed on the Olympic Channel in India in a continuation of the IOC’s policy to livestream action on YouTube in any markets where the rights had not been sold.

Speaking to SportBusiness at this week’s Sportel trade fair in Monaco, Anne-Sophie Voumard, vice-president of broadcast and media rights at IOC Television & Marketing Services, detailed the rights that had been held back in order to be able to offer action from Tokyo 2020 in some markets.

She said: “We anticipate using the Channel very much during the Games. Not with live but we have retained [clips] rights in about 68 territories across the Indian subcontinent, Russia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America (excluding Brazil).”

Voumard, who revealed that Australia would be the next market in which the IOC goes to market with its rights from Beijing 2022 onwards, added: “We’re going to use that retained content to engage with our audience.

“This is not to be competing with our broadcasters of course but to engage an audience eager to consume Olympic Games content, but also promote our partners and drive traffic back to them.”

The length of the clips, which will be showcased on the Olympic Channel app, the Tokyo 2020 website and the IOC’s website, will depend on the territory and the nature of a broadcaster’s rights deal.

Voumard noted: “We’re continuing to experiment and we believe that fans want to have a story to follow that makes sense. Once they go on an Olympic platform [during the Games] they do expect to see some content and we want to make sure that we provide that experience to them and that they’re able to know where they can consume more.”

Forthcoming rights sales

The next market in which the IOC will go to market with its rights is Australia as it seeks to tie up a deal for the Beijing 2022 winter games and Paris 2024 summer games.

The Tokyo Olympics are the last in a three-games deal signed by Seven, the commercial free-to-air broadcaster. That agreement is thought to be worth just under A$200m (€122.8m/$136.7m) and was signed in 2014 when rivals Nine and Ten failed to offer much competition.

Following a sales process in Australia, the IOC is expected to go to market with the Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 rights in the Indian sub-continent either just before or just after Tokyo 2020. A rights agreement in the Caribbean for those two games is also on the IOC’s agenda next year.

Free-to-air rights deals in Latin America are also still to be announced for Tokyo 2020.

Voumard said: “Those are still rights that are available in the region. In most of the territories there are ongoing conversations which we may have finalised but not yet announced. There are some territories that are still open but the goal is to have coverage across the whole region on free-to-air.”

América Móvil holds the exclusive pay-TV and digital rights in an agreement that runs until 2024. The telecoms group sold on the free-to-air rights to national broadcasters for the 2016-2018 cycle.

The América Móvil-owned Claro Sports recently announced a tie-up with YouTube to offer free content from Tokyo 2020 through the telecoms operator’s editorial agreement with Spanish media group Marca.

The Tokyo 2020 broadcast picture is also not yet complete in India, where pay-TV broadcaster Sony Pictures Network is in the process of sub-licensing the free-to-air rights. It is understood that Sony is continuing negotiations with public broadcaster Doordarshan, a long-standing free-to-air broadcaster of the games.

Beyond 2024, the IOC is prioritising rights sales in the Asian market as it looks to maximise the momentum from the trio of successive games in the continent (in 2018, 2020 and 2022).

Voumard remarked: “…we have started a new cycle already for 2026 onwards. We announced a deal in Korea with JTBC and that takes us [for two cycles] until 2032.

“We’re really looking at it to see if the market is ready to have those discussions or not. In Korea it was the case and we’re looking at Japan and the rest of Asia. Gradually then we will look into other territories.”

In terms of the European rights from 2026 onwards, the IOC is undertaking market analysis and will “communicate anything in due course”, Voumard said.

Discovery, the media group that owns pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, holds the rights in Europe (with the exception of Russia) in a €1.3bn ($1.44bn) contract that runs from 2018 to 2024.