ARD and ZDF agree four-games Olympics rights deal with Discovery
By Martin Ross
German public-service broadcasters ARD and ZDF have now reached an agreement to acquire sub-licensed Olympic Games rights from Discovery Communications, the media group that owns the rights in Europe from 2018 to 2024.
The deal remains subject to final approval on both sides but an announcement is expected in the coming days, Sportcal understands.
Upon confirmation, ARD and ZDF will secure live rights to all four games, beginning with next year's winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and with Discovery also retaining live rights to showcase across its platforms, including Eurosport.
The public-service duo, which have traditionally shown the games in Germany, attended a site meeting in PyeongChang two weeks ago to perform a full survey.
In November last year, Eurosport announced that it would retain exclusive rights in Germany after a sub-licensing deal could not be thrashed out with ARD and ZDF.
Discovery held initial talks with ARD and ZDF in the wake of its €1.3-billion (now $1.5-billion) acquisition of Olympics rights in Europe (excluding Russia), but these ended after more than a year with no agreement in place.
ZDF has come under public pressure to offer top sports coverage after losing out in the race to renew its Uefa Champions League rights from 2018-19 onwards, and the retention of the Olympics will be a boon to the broadcaster amid criticism from licence fee payers.
Discovery’s Olympic rights swoop dealt a blow to the European Broadcasting Union and its member public-service broadcasters, including ARD and ZDF, and the German broadcasters actually submitted a standalone bid for the rights from 2018 onwards, separately from the EBU’s offer.
ARD and ZDF spent around €115 million on the rights to the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics and Rio 2016 Olympics in a deal negotiated directly with the International Olympic Committee, a figure around €35 million less than Discovery was reported to be initially asking for the rights to PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020.
Susanne Aigner-Drews, senior vice-president and general manager of Discovery Networks Deutschland, said earlier this month as news of the new negotiations broke: “We have always expressed our desire to work together and with other partners who value the Olympic Games as much as we do. We have already partnered with 20 of the biggest national broadcasters in Europe to help bring the Games to more people, on more screens, than ever before.
“ARD/ZDF have a strong legacy of broadcasting the Olympic Games and have earned the respect of viewers and partners. They are also the broadcasters of the 2018 Paralympics. Discovery has invited ARD/ZDF to join us at a site survey in PyeongChang this week.”
In the wake of the breakdown of talks with ARD and ZDF last year, it was revealed that Eurosport 1, which is available on a free-to-air basis in Germany, would be the focal point of the broadcaster’s Olympics output, showing “every moment of national importance.”
There was also provision for extra coverage on DMAX, the men’s lifestyle channel also available on a free-to-air basis, the Eurosport Player OTT service and “additional exclusive coverage” on pay-TV channel Eurosport 2.
ARD and ZDF offered a record 340 hours of television coverage, including 280 hours live, of the 2016 Olympics, and also streamed over 1,000 hours of live coverage from the games.
Although it has agreed sub-licensing deals with traditional Olympics broadcasters in various European territories, Discovery is to showcase the games exclusively on free-to-air platforms in both Norway and Sweden.