The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday officially postponed the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo after weeks of trying to keep the international event on track.
Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, and Abe Shinzo, the prime minister of Japan on Tuesday held a conference call to confirm the news, and to reassure the world, athletes and media companies that the event would be held no later than summer 2021. At this point, it also will retain its 2020 branding. In addition, the Olympic torch will remain in Tokyo through those games as a “beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times.”
Discovery, which owns European rights to the events through its subsidiary Eurosport, said “Discovery fully supports the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing 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.”
“Given the unprecedented obligation we all face to contain COVID-19 globally, we fully understand the decision made by the IOC, Japanese government, and the health organizations they are working with to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics until 2021,” said NBC Sports in a statement. “We have no doubt that the IOC and Tokyo Organizing Committee will put on an exceptional Games next year, and that the Olympic flame will once again unite the world and provide a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Comcast-owned NBCUniversal had sold $1.25 billion in advertising to air in the Summer Olympics, revenue it will now have to wait to claim.
On the advertising side, NBCUniversal put out the following statement:
“NBCUniversal is actively working with our advertising partners to navigate this postponement, and we’re exploring all options to best serve their brands and our consumers this year, and into 2021.”
Still, it’s one more giant blow in an already difficult time.
NBCU acquired the rights to air both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games through 2020 for $4.38 billion, and paid another $7.75 billion for the games from 2021 through 2032, or about $1.1 billion per Olympics.
Earlier this month, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts assured investors that “[w]e try to anticipate for big events what might happen so that we’re protected there, and we also have insurance for any expenses we make. So there should be no losses should there not be an Olympics. There wouldn’t be a profit this year.”
Both Comcast and Discovery miss out on the opportunity this summer to promote new programs and offerings (such as NBC’s upcoming streaming service, Peacock) via what would have been a giant Olympics platform.
In addition, the IOC had secured $6 billion in global sponsorships that also will have to be put on hold.
For advertisers, it represents an opportunity to deploy that money differently in light of a quickly-changing environment due to the global pandemic. That said, there are very few events that offer the reach and exposure of the Olympics so that will be hard for brands to replicate. Moreover, where brands will stand economically by 2021 in light of the pandemic is hard to predict.
The postponement of the Olympics is another blow to sports television, with the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, PGA and the NCAA’s annual March Madness college basketball tournament and other live sports all off the air.