By Barry Janoff
December 15, 2016: In what was called a "ground-breaking collaboration to connect fans to the Olympic Movement year-round," the International Olympic Committee, U.S. Olympic Committee and NBCUniversal today unveiled plans to launch a linear cable destination, "Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA."
The network, scheduled to begin during the second half of 2017, will focus on Olympic-sport programming from around the world, but with an emphasis on American athletes and teams. It will come in advance of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
"This is a tremendous way to grow the real estate beyond the two weeks of programming every two years," Jim Bell, executive producer for NBC Olympics, said during a media conference call. "With the Olympic Games already the biggest event on the planet, this is a terrific way to grow the movement and is wonderful news for the sports and the athletes."
The news comes as Los Angeles is bidding to host the 2024 Summer Games, with a decision from the IOC scheduled to come in September 2017. Paris and Budapest are also host candidates for those Games.
The IOC launched the Olympic Channel as a worldwide digital platform following the Closing Ceremony of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
According to Gary Zenkel, president, NBC Olympics, "Ad opportunities will be available to IOC top-tier partners and USOC partners. There may be opportunities for National Governing Body partners. That will be our focus."
"We are in active discussion with our partners regarding sponsorship of the Olympic Channel," said Lisa Baird CMO for USOC .
Timo Lumme, managing director for IOC Television, said the IOC is currently in the process of renewing or extending deals with some current top-tier partners "and is also fielding inquiries from new sources," some of which may include Olympic Channel sponsorship deals.
Founding Partners to date supporting the IOC's Olympic Channel are worldwide partners Bridgestone and Toyota.
In Rio, NBCU said it had an "unprecedented" record 6,755 hours of programming, and an Olympic record $1.2 billion generated in national ad sales (up 20% from London, according to NBC).
NBCU has gotten significant ad dollars from official International Olympic Committee partners, which include Atos, Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Procter & Gamble.
Also adding major dollars to marketing are such U.S. Olympic Committee partners as 24 Hour Fitness, AT&T, BMW, BP, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Chobani, Citi, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hershey, Hilton, Kellogg's, Liberty Mutual, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's, Ameritrade and United Airline.
NBC has had exclusive U.S. coverage of every Summer Olympic Games since Seoul in 1988 and every Winter Olympics Games since Salt Lake City in 2002. In 2011, NBCUniversal extended its TV rights deal for the Olympics through 2020 for $4.38 billion, and in 2014 again extended those rights through 2032 for $7.65 billion, according to industry analysts.
According to NBCU, the collaborative programming will emphasize "live events from a broad portfolio of summer and winter Olympic sports."
"We currently produce 250 hours of original programming, which will be available to the new channel," said Mark Parkman, GM for the Olympic Channel.
"This is a tremendous way to grow the real estate beyond the two weeks of programming every two years."
That programming could include Olympic-themed original content produced by all three parties, such as original programs produced by filmmakers from around the world commissioned by the global Olympic Channel; rich archival footage from the IOC and NBCU’s library of Olympic features and documentaries; and original Team USA programming contributed by the USOC.
In addition, the alliance will encompass additional coverage of Olympic sports programs that will appear exclusively on other NBCU platforms, including NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Digital outlets.
The first begins Dec. 17, with the Team USA Winter Champions Series.
"The Olympic channel launch is yet another opportunity to provide more value to our fans by connecting them with a new media outlet to showcase our athletes who are striving to be best in the world in Olympic skiing and snowboarding," said Michael Jaquet, CMO for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn. "We applaud NBCUniversal’s continued commitment to expanding the reach of ski and snowboard programming, and the partnership with both USOC and IOC."
The U.S. channel will be based out of Stamford, Ct., where NBC has production facilities, and Colorado, where the USOC is based.
"The launch of the 'Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA' partnership marks an exciting opportunity to promote and celebrate Olympic and Paralympic sport year-round," said Scott Blackmun, USOC CEO. "Additionally, launching in conjunction with the inaugural Team USA Winter Champions Series broadcast is a great way to serve the fastest-growing fan base in American sports."
According to Mark Parkman, general manager for the Olympic Channel, "Through this exciting new partnership with the USOC and NBCUniversal, we will ensure that U.S. audiences are more closely connected with the Olympic Movement through a more personalized experience.
"The evolution of the Olympic Channel in the United States is a significant milestone as we expand our distribution options across the globe in conjunction with our broadcast and National Olympic Committee partners. Placing a spotlight on Olympic sports outside of the Games themselves will ultimately bring them more deserved attention and help them grow," said Parkman.
The IOC said that following the launch of the global digital product and in partnership with rights-holding broadcast partners and National Olympic Committees/National Governing Bodies, the Olympic Channel is developing localized versions, which will offer region- and language-specific user experiences on linear and digital platforms in certain territories, leading to more personalized experiences for Olympic fans around the world.
"This is wonderful news for fans of Olympic athletes and Olympic sports, and we’re proud to partner with the IOC and USOC to bring the vision of the Olympic Channel to life in the United States," said Zenkel. "The Olympic Channel partnership will provide multiple, year-round platforms to highlight the incredible achievements and inspiring stories of Olympic athletes and the Olympic values they represent, including a full-time home for Olympic sports when we launch the new linear channel in 2017."
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