Networks stick to tight Olympic rules

Seven, TEN, ABC and SBS are forced to stick to strict rules if they want to show Olympics footage.

As non-rights broadcasters they are allowed limited footage of sporting events, curtailing both the amount of footage and the frequency which with they can be played.

It’s know as the “3 x 3 x 3 rule.” It allows for 3 minutes in a program, separated by 3 hours, 3 times a day.

They are enforced to ensure Nine and Foxtel enjoy use of the rights for which they have paid handsomely.

That means a network such as Seven can broadcast 3 minutes during Sunrise, but that would preclude them from repeating it in The Morning Show. Footage used for the 6pm News rules out Today Tonight making any use of any content. Similarly, TEN News and The Project couldn’t both play footage nor ABC’s 7pm News and 7:30.

That also means networks must not screen Olympic footage from international broadcasters, such as via NBC Today show, which falls under NBC’s rights. Seven is currently not screening the show as a result.

There are also further rules on the use of material.

Networks cannot show more than 1/3 or 30 seconds of any event. Material can’t be broadcast before Nine or Foxtel and it can’t be used more than 48 hours after it has occurred. Press conferences are allowed but only on a 30 minute delay.

Networks must also give on-screen credits to Nine or Foxtel via their watermark and must be devoid of any advertising. Olympic material also can’t be used in promos or News Updates.

Online footage is subject to similar limitations.

The rules took effect on July 16 and apply until August 15.


  1. So let me get this right; Taxpayers fund the Games to the tune of billions, then the TV rights are snapped up by various broadcasters for mere millions. But it is they who get to decide who sees the Games, how much and when?

    If they can get away with such a scam then I’m going to sell a few London bridges after the Games!

  2. @Julian: I would have thought that whole document would be knocked on the head by our ‘applicable national laws’ (e.g. the fair dealing exemption for news in the Copyright Act), at least when it came to using footage on the nightly news.

  3. I’ve worked with non-rights holders in the past, and let me tell you how serious it is.

    Frames. We used to count down to the frames and take two off just to be sure we were in the requirements.

    It’s like winning gold if a journalist gets an athlete outside the venues. (Any footage crews get outside official areas is unlimited. Only broadcast footage is timed.)

    A person from Nine would be watching the other networks with a stop watch, but AOC watches everything, and reports to IOC.

  4. @BigJMATHEWS I think Sky does not have access to the footage regardless of being part owned by Nine. They are not a ‘rights holder station’ and therefore would come under these restrictions. Nine could grant an exception to these rules, however, they probably would rather have people watch Nine News for Olympic updates (as they have paid significant money for the rights).

    If you watch their Sky News reports, they don’t use a lot of the Olympic footage and like Seven, they use alternate footage when talking about the Olympics. ABC News 24 have made a point that they are unable to show footage of the Olympics for this reason.

  5. @Mr Rampage – the IOC grants access from their rights to Copyright for non-rights holder stations to broadcast under these conditions. Should the stations breach these rights, then the IOC can revoke their access to the footage (under copyright). If they still fail to comply (which is highly unlikely), the IOC states “LOCOG and the IOC will monitor compliance with these News Access Rules for the duration of the Olympic Games.” and I assume this will involve legal action if necessary to prevent the broadcast.

    All of these details are contained in the IOC “News Access rules” here:

    David, can you please confirm if it is three minutes or two minutes? (because it says under point 3 of this doc two mins: “No more than two (2) minutes of Olympic Material may be used in any one News Program”). Thanks for the info btw, very interesting!

  6. It’s pretty harsh for another networks only allowed three minutes and can’t run again on back to back shows. Fair enough to restrict them, but these sound incredibly harsh!

    Watching Seven News I thought they were a little ‘light’ on Olympic news and vision, and I thought they just didn’t want to remind people Nine were screening live Olympic coverage … but this explains it.

    You’d think the IOC would be quite happy for other networks to remind viewers there were ten other channels showing live coverage. Guess not?

  7. I was wondering what happened to the NBC Today show.Now I know.
    Also I’m just wondering,if for example we have a 3 minute Olympic report on Sunrise and then say Australia wins a medal by the time The Morning Show is on,does that mean we can’t be informed of that until at least 3 hours later or until the evening news?

  8. this has been the case for Olympics while i have been in the industry (over 24 years now) and Channel 7 have enjoyed these rights over the other competitiors for all those olympics…so for people to say its not right and this is heavy handedness…take a chill pill … its not a Channel 9 and Foxtel thing..its an International Olympic thing, if you have millions of dollars invested in something, of course you want to protect your investment…so again stop the whinging… and further i challenge anyone to cover it any better than the current and previous broadcasters..its a massive job congats to 7 on previous and congrats to 9 and Foxtel this time….

  9. I knew there were limits one what the others could show but I didn’t know they were so strict. They must have a team checking YouTube 24/7 for unauthorized footage of events!

  10. David, how is this enforced/controlled? Do the other stations get their footage through Nine/Foxtel, who would pull the plug if they didn’t stick to this rule?

  11. I understand they want to protect and preserve the value of the rights for rights holders but don’t you think that showing short snippets promotes the games and would help to increase ratings for ch9 ?

  12. Flamin Old Hat

    It’s reached the point where other networks can’t show overseas network’s programs that they normally show? This is ridiculous! I don’t normally show interest in the Olympics or sport, but what is with all the heavy-handedness?

    Something isn’t quite right here, please tell me how this is not greed or unfair share of the pie?

  13. bettestreep2008

    And we all thought the Olympics was for everyone to enjoy.

    Obviously it is only for the networks that paid handsomely and the viewers who enjoy 45 minutes of ads for every 15 minutes of actual Olympics. ( Nine telecast obviously – I don’t have Foxtel).

  14. instead i notice that the morning show is showing vision from other sporting events such as the comm games in 2010 and other vision when they talk about the olympics.

  15. I was gonna ask about this. Offsiders said they couldn’t show footage due to the rights restrictions but i remember Seven News showed footage so i was confused. Now i know.

  16. Do Sky News (part-owned by Nine) and Fox Sports (which is part of Foxtel) have the same restrictions? Are the rights owned by Nine and Foxtel limited to the two broadcasters only? And when the restrictions end on August 15, does it mean non-rights holders are free to show Olympic footage whenever they want?
    Also, the restrictions mean if you want to find out how countries other than Australia perform at the Olympics, or in sports such as archery, weightlifting and shooting, you have to read newspapers and look at the pictures (but I hear the IOC have their own restrictions on pictures).

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