‘Olympic Channel’ Lets Games Continue

The Rio de Janiero Summer Games are all wrapped up, but fans of Olympic sports won’t have to wait until 2018 for their competition fix.

The Olympic Channel, a worldwide OTT service, debuted late Sunday (Aug. 21), right after the conclusion of the telecasts from Rio.

The streaming channel — which may eventually spawn a linear network — seeks to “engage young people, fans and new audiences” in the long gaps between the semi-annual Summer and Winter Olympics.

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Backed by €490 million (about $550 million) from the International Olympic Committee, various national Olympic committees and advertisers, the new mobile-centric channel will tread into turf that was abandoned last year after the three-year-old Universal Sports Network, once intended to become an Olympic channel, shuttered operations. U.S. Olympics TV rightsholder NBCUniversal was a minority owner in USN.

“We will continue to evolve the digital platform and look to expand both digital and linear options of the Olympic Channel across the globe,” Mark Parkman, GM of Olympic Channel Services, told The Wire. Parkman, who won an Emmy for covering the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics for Turner Sports, offered no details or timetable, saying only plans would be developed “in conjunction with our partners,” including international sports federations and broadcast partners in each country.

The IOC’s free, year-round “digital-first” platform will offer original short- and long-form programming, live events, news and athlete stories, plus footage from the IOC archives. It won’t be a “sports channel,” a spokesperson insisted.

The Olympic Channel launch is accompanied by social media collateral on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, which Parkman calls vital to the youth orientation. At launch, it will be available via Android and iOS apps and on the website.

Parkman said the IOC is working with partners to look at “future ‘localized’ offerings of the channel.” Initial funding is for seven years (2015- 2021); Japanese tiremaker Bridgestone is the channel’s first advertiser. At launch, the channel will have more than 2,600 pieces of content, including more than 400 original premium items, 550 pieces from the Olympics archive and 1,200 stories produced in Rio this month.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.