The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has retained rights to the Olympic games in a new deal running until Brisbane 2032
UK Fans of football and other Olympic sports will be able to watch the summer games for free until 2032 after the public broadcaster renewed its TV rights for the event.
However, they will have to pay to gain access to every competition at the Olympics as Discovery retains the majority of broadcast rights.
This extension continues the previous deal between the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the BBC and Warner Bros Discovery which allows the free-to-air network to run only two simultaneous live streams of the event.
The limit on streams has been in place since Tokyo 2020 since the US-based broadcaster Discovery bought up the European rights to the Olympic games. WBD owns the lion's share of rights, while the BBC is allowed to provide a selected number of live streams to its viewers.
Prior to this, the BBC was able to run 24 simultaneous live streams of events from London 2012 and Rio 2016 before Discovery won the rights in a £1.1bn deal.
This means that the BBC will again only be able to cover 500 hours of the Olympic games, as opposed to 3,000 in 2012 and 2016.
While fans will be able to watch the most popular events across the BBC's two live streams, including Olympic football, they will need to purchase a monthly subscription to Discovery+ to gain unlimited access to events. The current price for this subscription is £6.99.
This agreement does mean the BBC will remain present at upcoming tournaments up to and including Brisbane 2032, broadcasting across television, radio and digital.
However, this renewal will likely lead to consternation among some viewers. At Tokyo 2020, the first Olympics for which the BBC didn't hold exclusive rights, many fans complained on social media about missing key events, including gold medal ceremonies, because they didn't have a subscription to Discovery+.
The new agreement will cover the upcoming summer Olympics in Paris in 2024, as well as Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032. It also applies to the next two editions of the winter Olympics.
Tim Davie, Director General at the BBC, has praised the deal:
“The Olympic Games is a truly special event – thrilling and inspiring in equal measure, I’m delighted it will be on free-to-air for the UK public.”
While this agreement doesn't return fans to the days of unlimited free access to the summer Olympics, it does maintain the rights share currently held by the BBC, and enable the broadcaster to provide viewers with coverage of key events.
Whether or not football will be prioritised in coverage is currently unknown, but given the immense popularity of the sport in the UK, it is highly likely that the BBC will make space for it.
What's more, Team GB is reportedly "keen on" reforming the men's football team, which hasn't competed since London 2012. The women's team is a regular fixture at the games, but concerns among home nations have made it difficult to achieve on the men's side.
However, were Team GB able to field a men's squad for Paris 2024, the popularity of football as a sport at the games would increase exponentially, and leave the BBC almost no choice but to prioritise it in its coverage.
Only time will tell if we could see a combined home nations men's football squad at next summer's Olympic games.
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