IOC to launch OTT channel in 2016; seeks broadcast carriage

The International Olympic Committee will launch its digital Olympics channel in 2016 and seek carriage on linear TV, IOC president Thomas Bach has exclusively told SVG Europe. “It will launch next year,” Bach said. “We want to make sure we get the quality and the content right. It will launch as digital first and we will then look at linear TV.”

Yiannis Exarchos, CEO, Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS), confirmed: “We are doing studies and quality tests and hope to launch before Rio. We are also talking with broadcasters in several territories about simultaneously launching as a terrestrial channel.”

The channel, which was announced last year, is conceived as a marketing vehicle for the Olympic movement with programming comprised of archive material and some international sports coverage. The IOC has spent the last seven years digitising an archive of 33,500 hours of video, including unedited broadcast rushes, 400,000 stills, and over 8000 audio recordings as well as restoring 40 official Olympic films.

“If we want to get the couch potatoes off the couch we must work with images and must place those images at the service of a worldwide audience to ensure people are inspired by them,” said Bach, speaking at the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“We have to look far ahead to keep our relevance in this changing world. The creation of an Olympic channel will draw heavily on our own archive but contain other programmes about live sports and news. This new channel will help to protect the image of the Olympic games and to raise the awareness of the Olympic sports.

“Some TV stations thought that with this channel we’d enter into competition with them. In meantime they have realised that this is not the case but is complementary. By raising the awareness for the Games and athletes we are helping broadcasters in their Olympic broadcasting.”

The Olympics channel got the go-ahead as part of 40 new proposals designed to rejuvenate the Olympic brand. Run by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), the IOC’s division based in Madrid, it will reportedly cost $600 million to operate over the first seven years, with a goal of breaking even within a decade. One of its goals is to feature sports that aren’t normally spotlighted and to attract younger audiences.

“We have to try be proactive if we want not only to safeguard our archives and the role of sports in our culture in future,” added Bach.

Attending the event in Lausanne is IOC President Jacques Rogge who greenlit the SFR30 million (Swiss Francs) digitisation process seven years ago.

“In 2007 I was informed that a century of Olympic images was in danger of disappearing irreversibly,” he explained. “In the digital age it is vital to have a digital version of this patrimony, especially if we want to promote the Olympic brand around the world. It was also important to allow broadcasters access to this patrimony. It is our responsibility to save this heritage for the world.”

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