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Discovery wins European Olympic TV rights

LONDON - U.S.-based media giant Discovery Communications (DISCA) secured the European broadcast rights for four Olympics through 2024 on Monday in a landmark deal worth 1.3 billion euros ($1.45 billion).

The parent company of the Discovery Channel and Eurosport won the rights to the games of 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024, and also agreed to collaborate with the IOC on its new year-round Olympic Channel.

The International Olympic Committee said the deal covers all platforms, including free television, subscription and pay TV, internet and mobile phones in 50 countries across the continent.

The agreement covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as well as the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics. The 2022 and 2024 host cities have not yet been selected.

Discovery bought Eurosport, Europe's leading sports network, last year for about $345 million. Discovery, which is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the home of channels including Animal Planet, TLC and OWN.

Discovery says it has an average of 10 channels in every market in Europe and can deliver more coverage than ever before to a potential audience of 700 million people.

"This agreement ensures comprehensive coverage of the Olympic Games across Europe, including the guarantee to provide extensive free-to-air television coverage in all territories," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Bach hailed the company's commitment to work with the IOC to develop the Olympic Channel across Europe. The channel, which was approved by the IOC in December, is scheduled for launch next April, a few months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The channel, projected to cost $600 million to operate over the first seven years, is designed to promote Olympic sports 365 days a year.

"This agreement ensures that sports fans in Europe will be able to enjoy excellent coverage of the Olympic Games and Olympic sports, both during and outside games time, on their platform of choice," Bach said.

Discovery said it was committed to broadcasting a minimum of 200 hours of the Summer Games and 100 hours of the Winter Games on free TV during the games period.

"Today is a historic day," Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav said. "This new partnership is an exciting win for European sports fans as we will deliver record amounts of content across platforms to ensure the Olympic flame burns bright all year long."

Zaslav said Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in many countries across Europe.

The BBC and France Televisions already hold the rights in Britain and France through the 2020 Games. After that, they would have to make a bid to Discovery to keep showing the games. The BBC has held exclusive rights in Britain for every Olympics since 1960.

In the previous European deal, the IOC awarded rights to 40 medium and small-market countries for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and the 2016 Rio Olympics to the Sportfive marketing agency in a deal worth $342 million.

The Discovery deal is the latest in a series of long-term, multi-games broadcast agreements done by the IOC.

Last year, NBC struck a record $7.75 billion deal with the IOC to extend its exclusive U.S. rights through 2032. Japan, China and South Korea have signed broadcast deals through 2024.

The IOC secured $4.1 billion in revenues from global rights deals for the current 2014-2016 cycle.

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