Youth-targeted Olympic Channel launches 21 August

MUMBAI: A new channel will launch just as dusk settles on the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games on 21 August. Called the Olympic Channel, it will be available for worldwide audiences as an OTT offering via mobile apps for Android and IoS devices and online at olympicchannel.com. And it is being flagged of by the International Olympic Committee to offer fans a-round-the year Olympic experience.

A budget of $450 million to finance it for the first seven years will allow it to roll out a mix of live sports, documentaries, archive footage, news and highlights. It hopes to break even in about 10 years. Its base is Madrid, home to The Olympic Broadcasting Service, the arm of the IOC, which looks after the production of all things related to the premier once-in-four year event. And the channel head, it’s the CEO of the OBS,Yiannis Exarchos.

With the slogan "Where the Games never end," Exarchos says it will deliver "the power of sport and the Olympic movement" 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And its ultimate goal is to bring the younger generation closer to sport, closer to an active lifestyle.

It will of course not telecast any of the Olympics live – as the IOC makes a large chunk of its revenues from licensing the live coverage of the Olympics to broadcasters worldwide. NBC has given it a cheque of $7.75 billion for US broadcast rights from 2022 to 2032.

But it will have access to the rich footage of Olympics competition over the decades dating back to almost a century, most of it not seen by the current generation. The OBS has digitized about 42,000 hours of the content which was stored at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzelrand, which is being repurposed, Exarchos has been telling media, in refreshing ways, “sometimes even in a funny or bonkers way.”

600 pieces of original programming, including 100 hours of high end documentaries, are also going to be on offer, featuring inspirational, dramatic or emotional stories of some of the biggest athletes in the world presented in a manner that can be enjoyed by younger people.

Japanese tyre company Bridgestone – which is a Olympic Top partner - has already come on board the OTT channel as a founding partner for four years. It will be the presenting partner of the eight episode documentary series Against All Odds, that follows eight athletes. Each half-hour episode will focus on one athlete, offering a first-person account of a key turning point, and how personal will and determination helped them to overcome adversity and reach their goals.

This apart, The Olympic Channel will also be showing about 11 sports events live between September and December including triathlon, canoeing, rowing and an Olympic ice hockey qualifying tournament. Formal agreements have been signed by it with 27 of the 35 summer and winter Olympics sports federations.

It has hired production companies in 17 countries around the world to produce content to allow for local stories to be told too, despite it being a global channel.

Olympic Channel executives are quite clear that the news on the channel will also be a draw as it going to be prepared by totally independent team of journalists who will make their own choices.

"We want to make the Olympic Channel the one place to go for all things Olympic," Exarchos told media last week.
It’s over to the viewers to take a call on that.

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