ITV will compete with the BBC to broadcast the Olympics after the corporation lost control of the rights to US broadcasting giant Discovery.
Adam Crozier, the chief executive of ITV, said the broadcaster would bid to sub-license the rights from Discovery, which paid £920m in an exclusive pan-European deal in June.
BBC director general, Tony Hall, said the corporation, the traditional home of the Olympics – that will broadcast the games until 2020 – would also bid for the games, which have to be shown on free to air TV in the UK.
But Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, said his channel would not be in the running, focusing on the Paralympics, the rights to which it first picked up at London 2012.
ITV lost the rights to live UEFA Champions League football this season after they were bought by BT. With its ratings down year-on-year, it will look to bounce back with exclusive live coverage of the rugby World Cup, which begins on ITV on Friday.
Crozier declined to comment further after confirming that ITV would bid for the games at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge.
Hall said: “We have got the Olympics, we did a fantastic job in 2012 and we will do a great job next year. We will bid too.” With the future of the BBC and its funding under scrutiny, Hall joked it would be a “very modest cheque”.
Asked if Channel 4 would bid, Abraham said: “We are going to focus on the Paralympic Games. We are very excited about Rio [de Janeiro] next year.”
The loss of the Olympics was another blow to the BBC, which has seen its live sports rights portfolio shrink in recent years, including Open gold and half of the Formula 1 motor racing season.
The corporation has poured huge resources and set great store by its Olympics coverage as one of the moments when it is able to bring the nation together.
Separately, Crozier dismissed suggestions that ITV was up for sale, saying: “We think we have a fantastic future as a standalone company.”
Following speculation that ITV would be bought by Discovery, Crozier joked: “Who knows in time we may be interested in buying Discovery. We are roughly the same value as them now.”
A day after Hall revealed further details about the corporation’s proposals for BBC Studios, Crozier reiterated his concerns about the project. “We find it really hard to see how the BBC in doing this can compete without some cross subsidy from public money,” he told the conference. “We have not seen or heard, including what came out yesterday, how they can solve those issues.”