By Ossian Shine
LONDON (Reuters) - Fans of the Olympics can expect the spirit of the Games to remain aflame all year round, not just during the sporting extravaganzas, the man now responsible for broadcasting both the Summer and Winter events to hundreds of millions of viewers across Europe told Reuters.
"We can make this a year-round experience... because of all the broadcast rights we have to Olympic sports," Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton said in an interview.
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"We promised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) we would keep the brand alive all year round."
Eurosport, through parent company Discovery Communications, bought the exclusive multimedia rights to broadcasting the Olympics in some 50 countries and territories in Europe in a 1.3 billion Euros ($1.37 billion) deal which begins on Jan. 1 and takes them through to the 2024 Olympic Games.
Discovery own the rights across all platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription/pay-TV television, internet and mobile phone in all languages. However, consistent with IOC and local market requirements, Discovery has committed to broadcasting a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of the Olympic Winter Games on free-to-air television during the Games period, and will sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe.
Hutton says this eight-year contract is just the start of a deal which he says offers much to both parties.
"For us, the Olympic Games is about changing from what Eurosport used to be, to what we are trying to be," Hutton said of the broadcaster which has grown from modest roots in 1989 to rival the biggest sports broadcasters globally.
"The Games, and these memorable moments...they give us a sense of purpose.
"Go back to how the Olympic Games affects you, it is great that the moment affects people, but also look back in time. I have got a picture on the wall here of Seb Coe winning in Moscow in 1980, but I remember him breaking three world records in 41 days the year before... the whole thing became a longer story, and that is what we want to do with the Olympics."
Eurosport have a instant opportunity to start building 2018 Winter Olympic buzz with their coverage of the Four Hills ski jumping tournament on Jan. 1. "That will be one of our biggest events in multiple markets," Hutton said of the iconic event that has taken place in Germany and Austria each year since 1952.
With the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, little more than a year away, Hutton acknowledges there are challenges ahead — not least establishing credibility for Eurosport as the "natural home of the Olympics Games", but the Briton says the broadcasters' full package can help grow the Olympics.
"We have got the deal up to 2024; but we would like to do this for longer," he said. "Sports channels do what sports channels do but we are a great combination, it is not just Eurosport, but also what Discovery can bring to this project."
Discovery, which says it reaches 3 billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries and territories, delivers a range of television programing and content through a number of global brands, including Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet.
($1 = 0.9512 euros)
(Editing by: Mitch Phillips)