Last August, the International Olympic Committee launched the over the top Olympic Channel available worldwide. The mission statement was to bring Olympic sports and programming during periods when they aren’t in the forefront of the sports landscape.
Today, NBC, the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee announced the creation of the U.S. version of the Olympic Channel which will be a TV network and air as a compliment to the over the top version. It will start operation in second half of 2017 and “will offer fans year-round Olympic-sport programming from around the world, with an emphasis on their favorite American athletes and teams.”
And while the over the top Olympic Channel has been streaming various features and some live events since August, it’s biggest announcement since launch was the creation of its own original documentary series which will begin airing next year.
Now the NBC version of the Olympic Channel will carry a mixture of live sports and original programming:
The collaborative programming will emphasise live events from a broad portfolio of summer and winter Olympic sports. It will also include Olympic-themed original content produced by all three parties, such as original programmes 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.
With NBCUniversal committed to the Olympics through 2032, the Olympic Channel was the next progression. There was a network devoted to Olympic Sports, Universal Sports which NBC invested in, but the channel went dark last year. NBC did pick up the rights to the Olympic sports that Universal Sports carried and apparently will fold into the new Olympic Channel.
The launch comes as the pay TV landscape is in a bit of flux as major networks like ESPN are losing subscribers and niche channels like Esquire Network are being dropped by major content providers (Dish, DirecTV). There’s no doubt that NBCUniversal will likely bundle Olympic Channel with its other cable networks to ensure pick ups, but whether people watch is another matter.