Updated with press conference information: NBCUniversal has pacted with the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee to launch a year-round U.S. channel entirely dedicated to Olympic-sport programming.
The linear cable channel, which is expected to be launched during the second half of 2017, is dubbed Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and will have an emphasis on American athletes and teams. It compliments the Olympic Channel, which launched as a worldwide digital platform following the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
The partnership will also bring additional coverage of Olympic sports programs that will appear exclusively on other NBCU platforms – including NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Digital outlets. First coverage for this begins on December 17, with the Team USA Winter Champions Series.
The three organizations will look to produce and distribute Olympic sports and Olympic-themed programming on a year-round basis between the Games and will emphasize live events from a range of summer and winter Olympic sports. It will also 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; archival footage from the IOC and NBCU’s library of Olympic features and documentaries; and original Team USA programming contributed by the USOC.
The IOC also plans to work with other broadcast partners to develop local versions of the 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,” said Mark Parkman, general manager of the Olympic Channel. “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.”
Comcast-owned NBCU has U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympic games until 2034 and most recently paid $7.65B for rights for the games from 2021 to 2032.
AT&T’s DirecTV will carry the channel when it launches — it was part of the package of rights that NBCU negotiated this year, NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said in a conference call to discuss the plan.
Other distributors, including Comcast, will have a chance to pick it up when their contracts with NBCU come up for renewal. Content will be available for their VOD packages. They’ll also be able to offer Olympic Channel on their TV Everywhere streaming offerings.
NBCU won’t offer the Olympic Channel directly to consumers as a stand-alone streaming service.
“This is really an important strategy for us in connection with the long term investment we made in the Olympic games and Olympic movement,” Zenkel says. “It is not something that has, as a primary objective, a profit.”
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun adds that his group is “looking at it holistically, too” to “grow the number of kids who are actively participating in sports, to grow our fan base.” It also wants to offer additional opportunities for advertisers “and, candidly, we’re trying to better connect with our donors. We’re not looking at this to justify itself” on the bottom line.
Executives would not disclose the size of each partner’s stake in the venture.
NBCU will sell ads to the top sponsors of its programming, and USOC team sponsors. Others will be able to advertise in specific events.