The Battle Over for Multibillion-Dollar Sports TV Rights

No company is known to be making a play for the rights to the Olympics just yet.

winter olympics
Marcel Hirscher performs at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup. (Erich Spiess/ASP/Red Bull Content Pool)

The Olympics have been a fixture on channels owned by NBCUniversal since 2002. This year, NBC is set to blanket the two biggest sporting events on American calendars — Super Bowl LII (Feb. 4) and the 2018 Winter Olympics (Feb. 9-25) — across screens everywhere next month. Meanwhile, tech titans are making an unmistakable advance on sports telecasts that were once the exclusive preserve of traditional media companies. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Verizon and Yahoo have all picked up smaller sets of mostly nonexclusive rights to different packages of live pro games over the past two years. The current bidding war for primetime TV rights to “Thursday Night Football” is indication enough that Silicon Valley players are attempting to steal away all the rights packages they’re currently okay with sharing. Most TV and streaming rights for the most popular leagues in the U.S. are locked up until 2021. But in the U.K., bids for English Premier League soccer rights become available this year, and Amazon is rumored to be a contender. Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, has said that sports is “an area we want to continue to invest in.” Tech giants definitely have pockets deep enough to easily bid up the multibillion-dollar price tags on game packages and could put them beyond the reach of media companies who are already suffering financially and who are watching viewership of sporting events dwindle.

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