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RTÉ loses broadcasting rights to the Summer Olympics from 2020
Discovery Communications, the owners of Eurosport, has paid over €1 billion for pan-European rights.

RTÉ HAS BEEN dealt a blow today with news that Discovery Communications has paid €1.3 billion to secure the pan-European rights to screen the Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024.

The deal with Discovery — the owners of Eurosport — cuts out national public service broadcasters such as RTÉ and the BBC, though the latter has struck a deal ensuring the 2020 Games in Tokyo will be available free-to-air in the UK.

However, all is not lost for RTÉ yet as Discovery says it has made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that a certain portion of the Games will be available on free-to-air TV and not only paid channels.

“Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe,” it said in a statement this afternoon adding that “a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of the Olympic Winter Games” would be broadcast on free-to-air television.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery, also said the company would sub-license some of the rights to national broadcasters such as RTÉ, the BBC or France Television to ensure the impact of the Games is maximised.

The agreement starts with Winter Olympics — for which RTÉ never had the rights to lose — in South Korea in 2018 and the 2020 Games in Tokyo. It also covers the 2022 and 2024 events for which no host city has been selected.

It includes 53 countries in Europe — but not Russia — while France Television, like the BBC, has secured a separate deal meaning the 2018 and 2020 Games will be free-to-air in those countries.

A spokesperson for RTÉ told The42 the broadcaster would make “every effort” to secure the rights to the 2020 and 2024 games.

“While RTÉ is disappointed at this announcement, it is too early to say definitively that RTÉ won’t broadcast the Olympics in 2020 and 2024.

“It should be noted that rights to Rio 2016 were bought by RTÉ through a third party agency when the EBU failed in its bid for those games and that Discovery Channel have said today that they will ‘sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe’.

“Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, The Summer Olympics are listed as a Designated Major Event which must be shown free-to-air in this territory.

“RTÉ will make every effort to secure the rights for the Summer Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024 so that Irish viewers can watch home-produced, relevant coverage of Irish athletes competing both in Tokyo in 2020 and at the 2024 Summer games – something that all countries would lose in the event of pan-European coverage.

“RTÉ remains optimistic that a solution can be found and in the meantime we look forward to bringing Irish viewers comprehensive free-to-air coverage of next summer’s Olympic games in Rio.”

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