More than 275 million viewers across Europe have watched the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the first nine days of the competition, Discovery has reported.
More than than half of those — 175 million — have been watching the games on free-to-air channels via Discovery’s sublicense agreements in each territories. As Variety reported Monday, some European viewers have expressed disappointment over the limited free-to-air coverage compared to previous summer games.
Discovery, which owns pan-European pay-TV channel Eurosport, bought the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2018-2024 Olympics across 50 countries throughout Europe in 2014 for €1.3 billion ($1.5 billion).
Discovery’s deal with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) stipulated that each European territory must be entitled to at least 200 hours of the games on free-to-air networks, which, in many countries, led to protracted negotiations between Discovery and local public service broadcasters for a sub-license.
However there was no stipulation as to how many simultaneous live feeds Discovery should grant, meaning when some Olympic competitions have taken place simultaneously, local free-to-air broadcasters have had to make tough decisions about what to show.
The remaining 100 million European viewers, however, have watched the games via Discovery’s TV and digital platforms, which include free-to-air in some territories, pay TV and digital/direct to consumer.
Where Discovery are broadcasting the games on their own free-to-air networks, they reported a “large” share of the linear TV audience, particularly in Nordic markets, recording a 78% share in Norway during the Spain vs. Norway handball, 67% in Sweden during the Sweden vs. Australia soccer and 60% in Sweden during the swimming.
Over the first nine days of the competition, streaming service Discovery Plus and Eurosport subscribers have also watched almost 75 million streaming minutes of the Games, “driving significant interest and engagement among audiences,” the company said in a statement.
The Tokyo 2020 games are the company’s first summer games, having also broadcast the winter games in 2018 from Pyeongchang.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tokyo summer games have resulted in a 10% higher reach than the 2018 winter games, with Discovery reporting that their audience share on pay TV channels has increased by over 30% compared to 2018.
The summer games have also proved to be a boon for Eurosport, which has apparently seen record daily audiences to the website, with 54 million unique visitors on the site in July.
“The Olympic Games is the biggest global event that goes far beyond sports and traditional sports audiences,” said Jean-Briac Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery International. “When we look back at the first week, it is clear the Olympics has brought new and different audiences to our platforms in impressive numbers. The Tokyo Games are seeing digital numbers never seen before, and we are thrilled that so many fans across Europe are watching the Games on discovery+ and Eurosport Player.”
“It is fantastic to see our coverage and the stories we’re telling resonate so strongly with audiences throughout Europe,” added Andrew Georgiou, Discovery’s president of sports. “Whether through record digital engagement on Discovery’s platforms or large audience share on our networks, it is clear these Games are having a big impact.”
Variety's K.J. Yossman contributed to this post.