After another four-year wait, the Olympics have started! C’mon Aussie, c’mon!

Rio 2016 began with a typically extravagant opening ceremony on Saturday morning AEST. Unfortunately however, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Channel Seven's 9.00am broadcast of the event averaged only 2.25 million regional & metropolitan viewers, the lowest rating opening ceremony since 2001 when the OzTam rating system began. 

Internationally, the average number of viewers in the United States was 26.5 million on NBC, which is a whopping 35 per cent decrease from the London ceremony.

This would be a worrying start to the Games for television networks who worked hard, and paid big, to secure their rights to broadcast the Games. Channel Seven has reportedly paid somewhere between $150-$170 million for the rights to broadcast these Olympics, with these rights extended to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2020 Olympics in Toyko. By comparison, NBC in the United Stated have reportedly paid $7.75 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics until 2032.

As part of their deal to broadcast the Games, Seven has been granted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the exclusive rights to ‘distribute, transmit, broadcast, communicate, exhibit and display to the public by any means and to any device.’ For these games, they are also streaming their content through an app, with a subscription available to view the events.  With these exclusive rights, no other organisation may transmit vision or sounds of the Rio Olympics within Australia.

Whilst Seven has these exclusive rights, other organisations, as non-rights holders, do have certain liberties in relation to the transmission of the Games:

  • Limited ability to use Olympic vision in their news programs.
  • Ability to broadcast archived Olympic footage.
  • Access to Olympic venues in Rio without equipment (with authority).
  • Access to the Main Press Centre in Rio with equipment, where they can film official press conferences held there and may broadcast them within Australia.

However, Olympic material broadcast by non-rights holders must have already been broadcast by Seven on their main or digital channels (unless it is the day following the specific event), and they must show credit to Seven using the Seven logo watermark or by putting up the words, ‘Courtesy of Seven Network.’ Additionally, no Olympic material is to be communicated over the internet by non-rights holders that isn’t an official press-conference without the express prior written approval of the IOC. 

With such an investment made by Seven, it will be very interesting to see whether the overall viewership increases as we move further into the Games. In the end though, if our athletes keep performing as they have done to start the Olympics, we will all have even greater reason to tune in…. GO AUSSIES!

For advice or further information regarding broadcasting agreements or other areas of Sports Law, please contact:

Ashleigh Wall
Special Counsel
T  03 5226 8559


Jesse Drever
T  03 5225 5226