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IOC awards Japanese TV rights to consortium in 4-games deal worth $1 billion

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LONDON - In another sign of the increasing Asian and Japanese financial influence in the Olympics, the IOC sold the Japanese broadcast rights through 2024 to a TV consortium on Thursday in an eight-year, four-games deal worth 110 billion yen ($1 billion).

The agreement represents a 61 per cent increase in rights fees from the previous eight-year period, and comes less than a week after Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone signed a $344 million deal with the IOC to become a global Olympic sponsor through 2024.

The new TV deal also marks another success for IOC President Thomas Bach in ensuring the long-term financial security of the Swiss-based Olympic body. Last month, NBC signed a record $7.75 billion agreement with the International Olympic Committee to extend its U.S. broadcast rights deal through 2032.

The Japan Consortium, which includes public broadcaster NHK and the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association, secured the exclusive rights to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, as well the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics, whose host cities are yet to be chosen.

The agreement involves broadcast rights across all media platforms, including free television, subscription TV, internet and mobile.

The consortium had signed a deal in 2012 for the rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We are delighted that we will continue to work with our broadcast partner, the Japan Consortium, until at least 2024," Bach said in a statement. "They have a proven track record in broadcasting the games to the widest possible audience, which is the cornerstone of the IOC's broadcast philosophy."

With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics, Japan has become a crucial market for the IOC. Japanese sponsors and networks are eager to buy into the games.

"Above all, the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, which will be the first Summer Games to be held in Japan for 56 years, will draw particularly high interest for the public," NHK President Katsuto Momii said. "They are not merely a sports festival; they bring enormous significance for the future of Japan."

In addition to Bridgestone, a second Japanese company — Panasonic — is signed up as a global sponsor through 2024.

Japan's importance was underlined when Bach recently appointed Tsunekazu Takeda, an IOC member who heads the Japanese Olympic Committee, as chairman of the IOC marketing commission.

Japan will remain high on the agenda next week when the IOC's co-ordination commission for the Tokyo Games makes its first full visit to the capital from June 25-27.

The panel, headed by Australian IOC vice-president John Coates, will visit venues and meet with local organizers and government officials. The trip comes as Japanese organizers review their venue plans amid concerns over rising costs, particularly for a new Olympic stadium.

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Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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