The role of Broadcast Television in the Olympic Movement

Paige Westin


The Olympic Games are arguably the largest sporting event in world history. To many, they are a social phenomenon that brings the world together to engage in international cooperation and cultural tradition. Although athletes come from around the world to compete for physical excellence, the broadcast networks fight for television superiority to portray this spectacle to one of largest television audiences in history.

The broadcast bid for the United States for the XXX Olympiad in London of 2012 was over one billion dollars, making it the most expensive bid in Olympic history. Throughout the years reaching an audience and making a profit has become more complicated because with every successive broadcast of the Games, there is a higher expectation for more coverage and with that comes a higher price. The IOC continues to expect broadcast television networks to pay more money to cover the Olympic Games and cover more events year after year; however with social media, the Internet, and the rising cost of the IOC rights fees, the future of the Olympic Movement is at stake.

I investigated this problem by critically examining the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee reports, and extrapolating from the various books that have been written about the Olympic Games. I also extrapolated from my professional experience I had interning at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Ultimately, I discovered how the television broadcast of the Olympic Games plays a crucial role in the Olympic Movement. Without the profit from the US broadcast rights fees the majority of National Organizing Committees would not be able to participate in the Olympic Games. With the new technology of social media and the Internet, the profit from the broadcast rights fees is redistributed and needs to be reevaluated in order for networks to pay high sums of money for the elite status of broadcasting the Olympic Games. Without this revenue from the television broadcasts, the intangible excellence that the Olympic Games will diminish because there will be a lack of participation from nations around the world.