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Safety first for Discovery amid fears of delays to Tokyo Olympics; NBCUniversal sells record US$1.25 billion in ads

Eurosport owner Discovery has told Digital TV Europe that the safety of its employees is its “number one priority” amid fears that the Tokyo Olympics could be delayed over the spread of Coronavirus. 

In mid-2019, Discovery committed to presenting “the most comprehensive digital coverage of a Summer edition of the Olympic Games across Europe” following the €1.3 billion rights deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The deal covers 50 territories including all of Europe, save for Russia.

However, with the rapid spread of Coronavirus impacting Japanese day-to-day life and international travel, the country’s Olympic minister has admitted that the games could be delayed.

In parliament, the minister – Seiko Hashimoto – said: “The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020. That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement.” Seiko added that Tokyo is still committed to starting the games on July 24 as planned.

However, an unnamed senior Japanese official has said that there is no ‘plan B’, Reuters reports.

When asked about the possibility of the games being cancelled, a spokesperson for Discovery told Digital TV Europe: “The safety of our employees is always our number one priority. We continuously monitor any potential situations and take all steps required to ensure the well-being of staff.

“We continue to work closely with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 who are engaged with all the relevant authorities and main UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation, in the build-up to every Games. We have full confidence that our partners, together with the relevant authorities, will take any measures necessary.”

This statement echoes previous comments made by Discovery International president and CEO JB Perrette during the company’s earnings call, who said: “We will continue to work very closely with the IOC and follow their lead. And we’re prepared and we’re ready to go, and we’re excited about going.”

The spokesperson also directed Digital TV Europe towards the IOC’s statement from last week that it has “expressed its full commitment” to the games being unaffected by coronavirus.

That statement hasn’t completely allayed fears however, with British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park suggesting to reporters that the event may have to be altered.

He pointed to the skiing World Cup finals in Cortina, which is set to take place “on a closed circuit with no fans” and suggested that such measures could “possibly” be taken for the Olympics.

The first two races of the coming MotoGP season have been cancelled over fears of the virus, while a large number of football matches in Italy have been played behind closed doors.

NBCUniversal’s record-breaking Olympic ad sales

Comcast’s NBCUniversal has set a new record for ads sold for an Olympic games.

The broadcaster said on Tuesday that it has sold nearly 90% of its ad inventory for the games, amounting to more than US$1.25 billion (€1.15 billion).

In reaching this milestone, NBCU has broken its own record of US$1.2 billion (€1.11 billion), which it set at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Olympics is a staple for NBC, having agreed a US$7.75 billion contract extension with the IOC in 2014 through to 2032.

The broadcaster is also putting the games at the forefront of its upcoming Peacock streamer.

Peacock – set to roll out to Comcast subscribers on April 15 and then nationally on July 15 – will be heavily advertised around the coverage of the Olympics, and will offer coverage as a part of its free tier.