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IOC signs European media deal for a reported $316 million

February 18, 2009 |  7:45 pm

Media right fees -- in analog days that meant television -- are what keeps the International Olympic Committee rolling along. So it's in the IOC's financial interest to try to rachet up the fees that media companies pay for the right to distribute Olympic-related content.

With that in mind, the IOC on Wednesday announced that it has sold European media rights to the 2014 Winter Games and 2016 Summer Games to SportFive, a German company, for a reported $316 million. (The 2014 Games will be held in Sochi, Russia; Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janiero and Madrid are competing to serve as host for the 2016 Games.)

Jacques Rogge SportFive acquired the rights to push Olympic content across television (free and subscription), the internet and mobile phones. The deal covers 40 countries in Europe -- but not the big four (audience-wise) of France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The IOC is negotiating individual contracts in those countries, and already has sold media rights for Italy and Turkey.

Some in the Olympic marketing world suspect that the big deal announced today will allow the IOC to, for the first time, squeeze $1 billion in European media rights fees.

If that's the case, the IOC could be in position to seek even higher fees when media rights deals expire in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Why would a European media company pay a premium for Olympic content while staring into the face of an increasingly gloomy global economy?

"They're looking past the recession," said Robert Prazmark, a long-time Olympic marketing consultant who now operates 21 Marketing, a Greenwich, Ct.-based firm. "And they think they can sell Olympic content for a lot more than they're paying."

"This agreement marks an exciting new era in the broadcasting of the Olympic Games," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement. "The IOC is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to the best possible Olympic broadcast experience."

The agreement requires SportFive to make at least 200 hours of content available via "free" television.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: IOC President Jacques Rogge. Credit: Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press / Associated Press