NBCU, IOC and USOC Launching Olympic Channel

MADRID—The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea may be more than a year away, but U.S. fans of the Olympics won’t have to wait that long to dive back in to the stories and events that help make the games what they are. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and NBCUniversal have announced the creation of a linear Olympic Channel that will launch in the U.S. in the second half of 2017.

Branded “Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA,” the new channel will offer year-round Olympic-sport programming from around the world, with an emphasis on American athletes and teams. This new channel will be a complement to the previously announced Olympic Channel OTT service that launched at the end of the 2016 Summer Olympics held this past August in Rio de Janeiro.

Content will include live sporting events from the portfolios of both the summer and winter games, as well as Olympic-themed original content produced by the IOC, USOC and NBCU. In addition, NBCU platforms will gain additional coverage of Olympic sport programs, starting with the Team USA Winter Champions Series that kicks off Saturday, Dec. 17. Further details about content will be provided at a later date.

“We are currently producing about 250 hours per year of original programming from our headquarters in Madrid,” said Mark Parkman, general manager for the Olympic Channel, during a conference call announcing the channel. “We’ve already contracted with 50 different companies from 25 different countries to produce some of this programming. I would say it’s a very ambitious plan from a content perspective.”

Specific details about availability of the channel were also revealed during the conference call. The channel will be part of the NBCU distribution portfolio going forward. The channel will currently be on AT&T/DirecTV (though not its OTT service DirecTV Now); discussion are currently underway with other MVPDs. There will be no OTT offering of the channel—it will be available through TV Everywhere devices, but user authentication will be required—though content will be available on-demand through the three partners.

“With the Olympics gams already the biggest event on the planet, this is a terrific way to grow what we refer to as the movement,” said Jim Bell, executive producer for NBC Olympics, during the call. “From a production and programming standpoint it’s tremendous to have some new found real-estate and be able spread the gospel outside of two weeks every two years.”

We see this as a really important part of the strategy to create continuity around the Olympic content, whether it’s the sports, the athletes, and some of the great stories that begin to be told during the Olympics but don’t necessarily end with the closing ceremony,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.