EBU protests against International Olympic Committee decision

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) officially protested today against the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hold the finals of the swimming and a number of gymnastics competitions at the 2008 Olympics in the morning in Beijing, corresponding to the middle of the night in Europe. With this decision the IOC ends the tradition of staging these finals in the evening irrespective of the time zone at the venue.

The EBU has already expressed its opposition to the proposed changes and drawn the IOC's attention to the negative consequences of such a decision as viewers in Europe as well as the vast majority of the global TV audience will be disadvantaged.

Commenting on the decision, EBU President Fritz Pleitgen stated: “We are deeply disappointed at the IOC’s disregard for the interests of viewers and broadcasters in Europe as it is the key territory for the free-to-air promotion of the Olympic Games and Olympic sports in general. The EBU is currently working with its Members to examine ways to safeguard the interests of European viewers.”

Andy Sennitt comments: The time was changed at the request of NBC in the US, which wants to show the finals of these events at prime time as US competitors are expected to feature strongly. The main reason, of course, is that they can make far more money from advertising if the events are shown live rather than delayed till the following evening. It’s a clear example of money taking priority over any other consideration. But, bearing in mind how much the IOC charges the broadcasters for TV rights, NBC’s position is understandable. According to the official website for Beijing 2008, broadcasters in Asia and the Pacific have also protested the change.

Olympic Broadcast Rights

The Olympic Games have seen tremendous growth in broadcast coverage over the past 20 years. The Olympic Games have achieved this success without compromise, and despite continuous pressure to the fundamental principle that all television agreements be based on free-to-air broadcasting with viewing for all. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has maintained this growth through direct negotiations, without having to incur any agency or third-party commissions. From 1984 until 2008, the IOC has concluded broadcast agreements worth more than US$ 10 billion.

Olympic broadcast rights outside of the USA have grown dramatically, thereby reducing the Olympic Movement’s dependency on USA broadcast revenue alone – the primary funding source in 1980.

The long-term broadcast rights strategy developed by the IOC has secured TV rights until 2008. As a result, future organising committees (and even, to a certain extent, future bid cities) will be able to plan firm budgets much earlier, ensuring a more stable staging of the Olympic Games. Deals have been signed with broadcasters who have prior experience in televising the Games, thus ensuring the broadest coverage and best possible production quality for viewers.

The long-term deals have also allowed the IOC and the broadcast partners to reach agreements on promotional programming to support the Olympic Games and to promote the Olympic Movement (regular airing of Celebrate Humanity promotional spots)

Never before has this strategy been planned so far in advance and with such guarantees.