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Scheduling blow as Olympics postponed

The postponement of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games caused by the coronavirus pandemic has thrown international broadcasters’ summer schedules into further disarray.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and the prime minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, yesterday confirmed the world’s biggest sporting event must be rescheduled for a date beyond 2020 but no later than summer 2021.

The Olympics had previously been due to kick off in Tokyo on July 24, with the Paralympics following on August 25.

Bach and Shinzo said in a joint statement the decision had been taken to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the games and the international community.

The postponement will come as a blow in particular to Discovery, which owns Eurosport and paid €1.3bn (US$1.4bn) in 2015 to air the Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024 across Europe, outbidding the pubcasters that have traditionally shown the event.

The media giant yesterday issued a statement saying it “fully supports the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee’s plan to stage the Olympic Games in 2021 and to make every effort to ensure the well-being of spectators, athletes, staff and the international community.”

“Our essential planning and deliverables are complete and will now shift into next year. We will continue to develop our products and offerings to best serve our customers and marketing partners in 2021,” Discovery added.

Bach and Shinzo agreed the Olympic Games in Tokyo could “stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”

As a result, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the event will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The delay also disrupts US broadcaster NBC’s summer plans, with the Comcast-owned network synonymous with the games in the US and coverage of the event due to form a key component of its direct-to-consumer service Peacock, due to launch on July 15.

Peacock was due to feature live coverage of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies before they air on NBC in primetime, and three daily shows – Tokyo Live, Tokyo Daily Digest and Tokyo Tonight –during the event. Peacock was also going to live-stream more than 1,000 hours of exclusive coverage from the Tokyo Paralympics.

The move adds to the disruption already facing international broadcasters, which are having to contend with the unprecedent impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has led to the postponement of other major sporting events, such as June’s Euro 2020 football tournament.

Buyers at broadcasters have already told C21 this has led to “huge gaps” opening up in their summer schedules.

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