The International Olympic Committee plans to launch an over-the-top digital TV channel as early as 2015, which will be stocked with archive material and some international sports coverage.
The OTT Olympics channel got the go-ahead as part of the 96-member IOC’s unanimous approval Monday of 40 new proposals, which among other things include new bidding procedures that would let cities or neighboring countries make joint bids to host the Olympic Games.
The goal of the IOC’s new digital TV channel will be to serve as a way to promote the sports that are featured in the games — between the Olympics — as well as serve as a marketing platform for younger viewers. The year-round IOC channel will cost $600 million to operate over the first seven years, with a goal of breaking even within 10 years, the Associated Press reported. It will be run by the Olympic Broadcasting Services, the IOC’s division based in Madrid, Spain, that produces a host country’s Olympic Games feed for international broadcasters.
In the U.S., Universal Sports Network — joint venture between NBCUniversal and InterMedia Partners — already operates a 24-7 TV network dedicated to this space. But according to the network, the IOC’s OTT channel will be complementary to its programming: Universal Sports has exclusive live TV rights for the U.S. for many international sports, including 29 championship events for Olympic sports in 2015.
“The IOC’s vote to create a digital over-the-top channel is a positive development in our space,” Universal Sports Network president Scott Brown said in a statement. “Their announced complementary content to the athletic competitions we broadcast on an annual basis will amplify the spotlight on Olympic sports outside of the Olympics themselves and ultimately bring them more deserved attention and help them grow.”
The Universal Sports channel is available to about 60 million U.S. pay-TV homes, through providers including DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, Cox Communication and Bright House Networks. The network is currently not carried by Comcast, which is NBCU’s parent company.
The proposal for the IOC to launch a digital TV channel was part of IOC president Thomas Bach’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” platform. Other reforms approved Monday included a rewording of the IOC’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation (following the controversy during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over Russia’s anti-gay laws). In addition, Olympic host cities will now be able to propose adding sports events for their games; that means, for example, the committee for Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympic Games could request that baseball and softball be included.