The International Olympic Committee launched its online Olympic Channel after the Rio Games last year and it’s already streaming live events. But later this year, NBC along with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the IOC are partnering on a linear Olympic Channel. All production and operations will be handled out of NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, CT.

NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel told the Sports Video Group Production Forum last week that when the Olympic Channel launches on cable and satellite providers later this summer, the programming will air Olympic sports programming with a focus on U.S. athletes. But with some questioning whether now is a good time to launch a cable channel, Zenkel says NBC is forging ahead:

“Who launches a cable channel in this environment? The answer is, we are going to … having a vehicle we could utilize to continue to talk about the athletes and the stories that really resonated and then begin to introduce those who are going to be introduced on the Olympic stage, we thought this was an opportunity we should take advantage of.”

Zenkel said that NBC is in its last cycle of talks with the major pay TV providers to add the Olympic Channel to the NBCUniversal cable bundle. He would not reveal which providers are on board and in how many homes the Olympic Channel will be available, but Zenkel said he’s confident that it will have a “sizable” distribution.

Right now is a volatile time for niche cable channels. With cord cutting and cord shaving, some channels like Cloo and Esquire Network are either going by the wayside or shifting focus from cable to a digital channel.

The new Olympic Channel will indirectly take the place of Universal Sports which aired Olympic sports and ceased operation in November 2015 after NBC had dropped its investment in the network.

NBC is hoping that it can sustain interest in Olympic programming in off years. If it can’t, gaining carriage with the pay TV providers will be a long uphill battle.

[Sports Video Group]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • thex11factor

    as long as there is live curling coverage, and not the recorded Curling Night in America

  • William

    I noticed alot of the old Universal Sports events are on NBCSN now adding to a diverse live sports library. So will some of those events move to the new channel? I hope not. They have little college sports. No NBA or MLB. Blew the Champions League to Turner. Which would mean more five hours car shows?

  • Respected Citizen

    There is no market for this, just like there was no market for Universal Sports or the Triplecast.

    • Raymond Chuang

      The problem with Universal Sports was it was seen on relatively few terrestrial cable systems. But now that Comcast will likely make it part of their local cable systems, that means the potential audience for the Olympic Channel could be surprisingly large.

      • Respected Citizen

        FS1 and NBCSN are in 80%+ of homes. Some of their events don’t even draw 2,000 viewers.

        NBC hasn’t invested in its main sports channel, so I don’t see them investing in a specialty channel.

  • Raymond Chuang

    Here’s the surprise: the Olympic Channel may be more successful than people think.

    With one good reason: it’s ownership by Comcast means it’s VERY likely every Comcast system in the USA will carry the channel, and Comcast has a audience reach far bigger than any other cable TV operator. And Comcast will likely offer it to both DirecTV and Dish Network at a very reasonable cost, too.

  • David Feinberg

    It was interesting that Comcast would not carry USN even though they owned a piece of it. One would have to think that they wanted it to fail just so this scenario would develop. Karma often has a way of getting even. I wish Comcast and NBC Sports nothing but the worst.

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