Since 2018, the BBC no longer has exclusive UK broadcast rights. This means it’s restricted to live coverage of no more than two live events at any one time.
Specifically, this means it can show live coverage on one of its main two channels, plus live coverage on BBC Red Button.
Discovery acquired the rights to the Summer and Winter Olympics across Europe (except Russia) from 2018 until 2024, with the exception of the UK and France. UK and French rights were for 2022 and 2024 only.
This is because in the UK, the BBC originally held the rights until 2020. However, it traded full access to 2018 and 2020 games in return for TV coverage of the 2022 and 2024 games.
The rights acquisition was Discovery’s biggest since taking full control of Eurosport from France’s TF1.
The deal has proved to be a money-spinner for Discovery, thanks to the Olympic Games status as a protected/listed event in countries across Europe. Public service broadcasters across the continent found themselves obligated to make deals with Discovery in order to provide free-to-air coverage in their countries. As a result, Discovery was quickly able to recoup some of the costs. And, as was the case with the BBC, was able to trade existing sports broadcast rights in return for future Olympic coverage.
UK Olympic TV broadcast rights 1992 onward
Rights to the Olympics for much of this time period were acquired by the European Broadcasting Union on behalf of national public service broadcasters. Eurosport, through its former links to the EBU provided Olympic coverage during some of this timeframe. In 2014, a standalone agreement between the BBC and the IOC began, covering UK broadcast rights.
|2018 Winter & 2020* Summer Olympics||BBC, sublicensed to Discovery|
BBC retains rights to coverage on one network channel and one red button stream. Discovery acquires the bulk of the coverage, and rights to show multiple events, in return for a deal covering 2022 and 24 games:
|2022 Winter & 2024 Summer Olympics||Discovery, sublicensed to the BBC|
BBC acquires rights to coverage on one network channel and one red button stream, in return for surrendering exclusive rights for 2018 & 20. Discovery’s Eurosport retains the bulk of the coverage, and rights to show multiple events.
|2026 onwards||The International Olympics Committee has yet to confirm who will hold the rights to show the Olympics.|
The evolution in broadcast rights also means the BBC can no longer offer its BBC Red Button coverage to viewers in the Republic of Ireland.