Olympics on television
The Olympic Games have been broadcast on television since the 1930s.
- 1 1930s
- 2 1940s
- 3 1950s
- 4 1960s
- 5 1970s
- 6 1980s
- 7 1990s
- 8 2000s
- 9 2010s
- 10 References
- 11 External links
1936 Summer Games
1948 Summer Games
1956 Summer Games
Television service was introduced to Australia in time for the 1956 Games in Melbourne. International broadcasting institutions present were BBC, CBS, NBC, Eurovision and United Press. The first time broadcasting rights were sold.    
1956 Winter Games
RAI introduced the first Winter Games coverage ever. The broadcasts were relayed live via Eurovision to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.  
1960 Winter Games
CBS paid $50,000 for the right to broadcast the games in the United States, and this marked the first time the Olympic Games were televised there. Also, officials, unsure if a skier had missed a gate in the men's slalom, asked CBS if they could review a videotape of the race. This would be the impetus and inspiration for CBS to develop what would come to be known as "instant replay."
1964 Summer Games
1968 Winter Games
The first Olympic Games to be broadcast in colour. Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy won three gold medals in all the alpine skiing events. In women's figure skating, Peggy Fleming won the only United States gold medal. The games have been credited with making the Winter Olympics more popular in the United States, not least of which because of ABC's extensive coverage of Fleming and Killy, who became overnight sensations among teenage girls.
ITV covered the Summer Olympic Games 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980. An industrial dispute prevented coverage of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but the Games returned to ITV screens in 1988, sharing the coverage with Channel 4 - Channel 4 showing the overnight and breakfast coverage with ITV covering the daytime action as well as broadcasting early evening highlights programmes. The 1988 Olympics were the last time that the Games have been shown on ITV with subsequent Olympic Games being shown only on the BBC. ITV has never broadcast the Winter Olympics.
1972 Summer Games
In the controversial gold medal basketball game, the United States' Olympic basketball winning streak, which started in 1936, was ended by the Soviet team's victory in the gold medal game, which USA Basketball calls "the most controversial game in international basketball history". Doug Collins made two free throws with three seconds left to give the USA a 50-49 lead, despite the horn going off in the middle of his second attempt. The Soviets failed to score on the ensuing possession, but the clock was stopped at 0:01 after one official heard the earlier horn and the Soviets were frantically urging time-out. The clock had to be reset to three seconds but it was showing 0:50 when play began again. Again, the Soviets failed to score, time apparently expired, and the United States began celebrating, with ABC displaying the 50-49 margin as "final".
Initial news reports, published all over the world, indicated that all the hostages were alive, and that all the terrorists had been killed. Only later did a representative for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggest that "initial reports were overly optimistic." Jim McKay, who was covering the Olympics that year for ABC, had taken on the job of reporting the events as Roone Arledge fed them into his earpiece. At 3:24 A.M. (German Time), McKay received the official confirmation:
When I was a kid, my father used to say, 'Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.' Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They’ve now said that there were eleven hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.
1980 Winter Games
Miracle on Ice
The rest of the United States (except those who watched the game live on Canadian television) would have to wait to see the game, as ABC decided to broadcast the late-afternoon game on tape delay in prime time. As in several previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early. Vladimir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Aleksei Kasatonov past U.S. netminder Jim Craig to give the Soviets a 1–0 lead, and after Buzz Schneider scored for the United States to tie the game, the Soviets rallied again with a Sergei Makarov goal.
Down 2–1, Craig improved his play, turning away many Soviet shots before the U.S. team had another shot on goal (the Soviet team had 39 shots on goal in the game, the Americans only 16). In the waning seconds of the first period, Dave Christian fired a slap shot on Tretiak. The Soviet goalie saved the shot but misplayed the rebound, and Mark Johnson scooped it past the goaltender to tie the score with one second left in the period. The Soviet team played the final second of the period with just three players on the ice, as the rest of the team had retired to their dressing room for the first intermission.
Tikhonov replaced Tretiak with backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin to start the second period, a move which shocked many players on both teams. Fetisov later identified this as the "turning point of the game." Myshkin allowed no goals in the second period. Aleksandr Maltsev scored on a power play to make the score 3–2 for the Soviets, but Craig made numerous saves to keep the U.S. in the game.
Johnson scored again for the U.S., 8:39 into the final period, firing a loose puck past Myshkin to tie the score just as a power play was ending. Only a couple shifts later, Mark Pavelich passed to U.S. captain Mike Eruzione, who was left undefended in the high slot. Eruzione fired a shot past Myshkin, who was screened by his own defenseman. This goal gave the U.S. a 4–3 lead with exactly 10 minutes to play in the contest. Craig withstood another series of Soviet shots to finish the match, though the Soviets did not remove their goalkeeper for an extra attacker. As the U.S. team tried to clear the zone (move the puck over the blue line, which they did with seven seconds remaining), the crowd began to count down the seconds left. Sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC along with former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, picked up on the countdown in his broadcast, and delivered his famous call:
|“||"...eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk...five seconds left in the game--do you believe in miracles? Yes!!"||”|
Though the game was on live television in the Soviet Union, it was played at 1:00 AM Moscow time. This afforded CPSU officials some ability to squelch news and discussion; Pravda did not carry a game report or mention the match in its post-Olympic wrap-up, and the hockey players were quickly and quietly herded away from the arrival reception for Olympic athletes at Moscow's airport.
1980 Summer Games
Major broadcasters of the games were USSR State TV and Radio (1,370 accreditation cards), Eurovision (31 countries, 818 cards) and Intervision (11 countries, 342 cards). Asahi TV with 68 cards provided coverage for Japan, while OTI representing the Spanish-speaking world received 59 cards, TVNZ (New Zealand) was aired live and the Channel Seven provided coverage for Australia (48 cards). NBC, which had intended to be another major broadcaster, canceled its coverage in response to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, and became a minor broadcaster with 56 accreditation cards, although the network did air highlights and recaps of the games on a regular basis. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation almost canceled their plans for coverage after Canada took part in the boycott and was represented by 9 cards.
The television centre used 20 TV channels. Montreal had used 16, Munich 12, Mexico City 7.
1984 Summer Games
The price for ABC's 180 hours of television is $225 million. All Los Angeles radio and television stations covered the Olympics extensively throughout the event. The Summer broadcast rights almost tripled from 1980 to 1984 ($87 million to $225 million) and both Winter and Summer rights have gone for $300 million or more since 1988.
1988 Winter Games
The American host network, ABC, paid a then record $398 million, while the main host broadcaster, the Canadian CTV television network, paying domestic rights for $45 million. A further $90 million was raised by sponsorships and licenses.
1992 Summer Games
The exploding costs of the Games sent networks looking for alternative strategies to ease the financial burden. In 1992, NBC made an attempt at utilizing pay-per-view subscriptions with the "Olympic Triplecast", which was organized in conjunction with Cablevision and intended to sell packages of commercial-free, extensive programming.
NBC, which had the broadcast rights to the games, partnered with Cablevision for the experiment, believing that people would pay between $95 to $170 to see events live that would normally be shown on tape delay on the network in prime time. By the time the games began, relatively few people had ordered the package, which featured Red, White and Blue channels on a special three-button remote control offered by some cable operators for free as a lure to sign up for the service.
The plan was a failure, mainly due to viewers' reluctance to pay to see some events when network coverage of others was free of charge. NBC and Cablevision would lose millions of dollars, with one estimate putting their losses at $100 million.
1994 Winter Games
When the construction of the Lysgårdsbakkene jumping hills started in 1992, the hills had to be moved some meters north so that the American broadcaster CBS could get the best pictures available from their pre-chosen location.
1998 Winter Games
The games were covered by the following broadcasters:
- NHK, NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo (Japan)
- MBC (South Korea)
- CBS, TNT, (United States)
- BBC (Great Britain)
- CBC (Canada)
- SVT (Sweden)
- ARD and ZDF (Germany)
- NRK (Norway)
- Seven Network (Australia)
- YLE (Finland)
- RAI (Italy)
2000 Summer Games
Most of the footage used by international broadcasters of the Opening and Closing Ceremony was directed out of SOBO (Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organisation) by Australian director Peter Faiman. In Sydney in 2000, there were over 16,000 broadcasters and journalists, and an estimated 3.8 billion viewers watched the games on television.
The games were covered by the following broadcasters:
- Seven Network (Australia)
- RTÉ (Ireland)
- BBC (Great Britain)
- NBC (United States)
- RTVE (Spain)
- RTP (Portugal)
- SVT (Sweden)
- CBC and TSN (Canada)
- NHK (Japan)
- KBS (South Korea)
- ARD and ZDF (Germany)
- France Télévisions (France 2 and France 3) and Canal + (France)
- PTV (Philippines)
- Televisa and TV Azteca (Mexico)
- TVNZ (New Zealand)
- Rede Globo and Band (Brazil)
- RAI (Italy)
Running up to the games an Australian comedy satire, The Games, was broadcast in Australia (it was also broadcast, at a later date, in New Zealand). It featured a spoof of the issues and events that the top-level organisers and bureaucrats suffered in the lead up to the games.
A poignant part of the media coverage happened in the Canadian broadcast. On 28 September, the CBC was airing the Olympics, when the network's chief correspondent, Peter Mansbridge, broke in and said:
- "Hello from Toronto, I'm Peter Mansbridge. Sad news to report from Montreal...Pierre Elliott Trudeau, prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1984 with one brief interruption in 1979, has passed away..."
NBC presented over 400+ hours on their main and sister stations, CNBC and MSNBC. The downside of the American coverage was that it was presented on tape delay rather than live due to the 15-hour time difference. The lone exception was the gold medal game in Men's Basketball, which featured the U.S. defeating France 85-75. The game was televised live in primetime on Saturday, 30 September (EDT), which was the afternoon of Sunday, 1 October in Australia.
2002 Winter Games
An estimated 2.1 billion viewers from 160 countries watched over 13 billion viewing hours during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The average worldwide viewer watched 6 hr 15 min of coverage, while the viewers in the game's host county of the United States watched an average of 29 hours each. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) used the organization International Sports Broadcasting (ISB), who had over 400 cameras, to provide a live video feed of competitions and ceremonies. The various official broadcasting companies in the 160 different countries could then tap into the feed and air the programs live or on a taped delay in their respective markets.
|Area||Olympic Broadcast Partner|
|United States||National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC)|
|Canada||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)|
|Central/South America||Organización de la Television Ibero-Americana (OTI)|
|Europe||European Broadcasting Union (EBU)|
|Australia||Seven Network Limited|
|New Zealand||TV New Zealand (TVNZ)|
|Asia||Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)|
|Japan||Japan Olympic Pool|
|South Korea||Korean Olympic Pool|
|South Africa||Supersport International|
2004 Summer Games
NBC Universal paid the IOC $793 million for U.S. broadcast rights, the most paid by any country. NBC made it possible for the network to broadcast over 1200 hours of coverage during the games, triple what was broadcast in the U.S. four years earlier. Between all the NBC Universal networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA Network & Telemundo) the games were on television 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In their 2004 coverage, NBC and its sister networks presented live coverage throughout the morning and afternoon, while showing marquee events pre-taped in prime time.
For the first time, major broadcasters were allowed to serve video coverage of the Olympics over the Internet, provided that they restricted this service geographically, to protect broadcasting contracts in other areas. For instance, the BBC made their complete live coverage available to UK high-speed Internet customers for free; customers in the U.S. were only able to receive delayed excerpts.
NBC launched its own Olympic website, NBCOlympics.com. Focusing on the television coverage of the games, it did provide video clips, medal standings, live results. Its main purpose, however, was to provide a schedule of what sports were on the many stations of NBC Universal. The games were on TV 24 hours a day on one network or another.
2006 Winter Olympics
The 2006 Olympic Winter Games were broadcast worldwide by a number of television broadcasters:
- An extensive list of official broadcasters is found at The Games on Television section of the Torino Games official site.
- The BBC provided television and radio coverage of the winter Olympics in the UK - the TV coverage was presented mainly by Grandstand regulars such as Hazel Irvine and Clare Balding. Most of the coverage was shown on BBC Two, with some on BBC One, and there was also BBC Red Button for Freeview, Satellite and Cable (digital TV) viewers. BBC also broadcast many events live on the webcast Freeview provides an extra two screens whereas all three interactive streams were available to UK users only on bbc.co.uk and Digital Satellite and Cable such as Sky Digital.
- Eurosport also provided live coverage of events to viewers across the EU and Europe.
- American Forces Network rebroadcast some of this coverage for military personnel serving outside the United States.
- SportTV2 broadcast for the first time all days and all events in Brazil.
- ČT4 Sport was introduced on the occasion of the Olympic Games in the Czech Republic.
Ratings and attendance
A number of events reported low spectator attendance despite having acceptable ticket sales. Preliminary competition and locally less popular sports failed to attract capacity crowd as expected. Organizers explained this was because blocks of seats were reserved or purchased by sponsors and partners who later did not show up at the events.
Several news organizations reported that many Americans are not as interested in the Olympics as in years past. It has been suggested that reasons for this disinterest include the tape delayed coverage, which showed events in prime-time as much as 18 hours later in the West, and also due to the lack of success achieved by big-name American athletes.
In Canada, CBC's coverage has also posted disappointing numbers, which were reduced as the Canadian men's hockey team was eliminated early in the competition. Primetime ratings reached only as high as #7 in the weekly ratings. However, ratings for live, afternoon coverage have attracted 300,000 more viewers than the taped, primetime coverage. Overall, only primetime coverage has suffered, dropping 45% from the 2002 Games, with the entire coverage being 52% ahead from 2002. Meanwhile on TSN, the numbers for its live curling coverage (which aired as early as 3:00am EST) were between 300,000 and 500,000 viewers.
The Olympics' main threat in the USA was the 2006 season of American Idol. One night of interest was 23 February in which the first results show of the season went head to head with that night's coverage which included the Women's Free Skate in Figure Skating.
2008 Summer Games
These games were the first to be produced and broadcast entirely in high definition television. In their bid for the Olympic games in 2001, Beijing confirmed to the olympic evaluation commission "that there would be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games."
In Canada the public network CBC/Radio-Canada and cable networks TSN and RDS broadcast its final games before a private consortium involving CTV/Rogers/TQS takes over for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which will be happening within Canadian borders, in Vancouver.
2010 Winter Games
Vancouver 2010 was broadcast worldwide by a number of television broadcasters. As rights for the 2010 games were packaged with those for the 2012 Summer Olympics, broadcasters were largely identical for both events. Broadcasters included:
- Central Record de Comunicação had been awarded the broadcasting for only free to air television on Rede Record.
- Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium consists of CTV, V, TSN, RDS, RIS, Rogers Sportsnet, Omni Television, OLN, Rogers radio stations, as well as third-party broadcasters APTN and ATN, MuchMusic
2012 Summer Games
Continuing the IOC's commitment to providing over-the-air television coverage to as broad a worldwide audience as possible, London 2012 is scheduled to be broadcast by a number of regional broadcasters. Though reduced dramatically since 1980, the United States television rights currently owned by NBC still account for over half the rights revenue for the IOC. Many television broadcasters granted rights to the games have bureaux and studios in London, but since at least the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, rights-holder operations are hosted in the dedicated International Broadcast Centre (IBC). London's IBC is planned to be within the London Olympics Media Centre inside the security cordon of the Olympic Park.
As rights for the 2012 games have been packaged with those for the 2010 Winter Olympics, broadcasters will be largely identical for both events. Confirmed broadcasters include:
- In Europe, members of the European Broadcasting Union (excluding RAI in Italy). In Italy, SKY has achieved rights, but was forced to sell 200 hours of the event to RAI due to compulsory free broadcast of the event.
- In Brazil, Central Record de Comunicação had been awarded the broadcasting for only free to air television rights on Rede Record and Record News.
- In Australia, the Nine Network in joint partnership with subscription television partner Foxtel will broadcast the games.
2014 Winter and 2016 Summer Games
On August 19, 2008, it was reported that ESPN and ABC, both owned by The Walt Disney Company, were interested in airing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ESPN and ABC planned to carry more Olympic events live as opposed to the tape-delay format used by current rights-holder NBC. NBC, FOX and a partnership between CBS and Turner Sports also participated in the bidding process for televising the Games in the United States. In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 Olympics, the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history.
In Brazil, Rede Globo and Band won the rights to broadcast the games, but they allowed the IOC to negotiate with others broadcasters about the free-to-air transmission. Rede Record purchased the rights for the free-to-air broadcasts. But, they have the exclusive rights for cable TV and internet.
In Europe, for the first time, the IOC rejected the offer from EBU to broadcast the 2014 & 2016 Olympics, so individual networks in Europe must contract for television rights.
SKY Italia had reached an agreement to broadcast 2014 & 2016 Olympics, but later, it sold the second one to RAI, holding only the first one.
In Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were granted rights to the 2014 and 2016 games in July 2012 for an undisclosed sum.
- Olympics on United States television
- Olympics on CBC
- Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium
- Olympics on Seven
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- Report of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008, pg.73
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- Olympics on TV
- The World Comes Together in Your Living Room: The Olympics on TV
- OLYMPICS AND TELEVISION
- Olympic Commentators by Event History
- Olympic Broadcasting Services