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ERR not to broadcast 2018, 2020 Olympics

Eurosport parent company Discovery Communications has broken off negotiations with Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), as the 800,000 euros Discovery has asked for the broadcasting rights for the next Winter and Summer Olympics is more than four times the amount broadcasting rights have previously cost and ERR does not consider it possible to increase the size of its own offer.

"Based on the cost of the rights during previous periods as well as the principle of responsible spending of public funds, we do not consider it possible to increase our offer any further," said Rivo Saarna, head of the sports department at ERR.

According to Saarna, negotiations with Discovery regarding Olympic broadcasting rights lasted three quarters of a year, but in the end, the two sides’ visions of the cost thereof differed by nearly half a million euros. ERR had submitted three offers to Discovery, but has not received a response since.

He noted that Estonians need not worry about losing out on the opportunity to watch the Olympics, as Discovery would likely sell the rights to broadcast the Games on Estonian territory to another, privately owned channel willing to pay more for the rights than ERR and who would try to recoup as much of the expenses involved as possible through sponsorship and advertising contracts.

Saarna confirmed that ERR’s sports department would nonetheless cover the Olympics in its sports broadcasts and online news portal to the extent allowable by law. "Interviews with all Estonian athletes participating in the Olympics will reach ERR’s television viewers, radio listeners and sports news portal readers via ERR’s news channels," he promised.

ERR chairman: Situation cause for concern

Speaking on ETV’s news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera," Chairman of the Board at ERR Margus Allikmaa found that the given situation, in which the cost of broadcasting rights for sports continued to climb, was cause for concern. "We were previously able to bring prices down enough for Estonia; now one bidder has gone along with the price hike," he commented.

The ERR chairman noted that a common theme apparent among the broadcasting company leaders present at a summit in Geneva was that the purchasing of sports broadcasting rights was increasingly more complicated for those channels who did not earn money from advertising. "Prices are increasing, but budgets aren’t growing," said Allikmaa.

On the bright side, he went on to note, the money saved can be spent elsewhere within the organization. "We had a choice — either we broadcast sports at the expense of remaining programming or we save the money for other projects," Allikmaa said. "This is a win for those who do not care about sports."

The board chairman found that the Olympics had become increasingly commercialized anyway. "Many have pointed out that real sports take place elsewhere outside of the Olympics," he noted, adding that the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be taking place in a time zone that, due to the time difference, would be unsuitable for Estonian viewers anyway.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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