Live From Sportel 2015: Mark Parkman lays out Olympic Channel vision

Plans for the Olympic Channel are continuing to gather pace heading into 2016, and whilst a launch date is not yet known a dedicated team of 100 people are expected to be in place and working within a broadcast centre in Madrid (with commercial support in Lausanne, Switzerland) by the end of next year.

“One of the challenges we have now is hiring the right people,” says newly appointed Mark Parkman, Olympic Channel Services’ general manager. “We’re in aggressive hiring mode and will have 40-50 staff by the end of the year.”

Those details were part of a panel discussion at Sportel in Monaco featuring Parkman and Vincent Chupin, IOC, VP of IOC Television and Marketing, that laid out not only the how of the Olympic Channel, but also the why.

The why is quite simple: to create a 365 days-a-year digital platform that will put Olympic sports front and centre in an effort to do everything from help create new fans of sports to new athletes. Not only will the platform include live coverage of various Olympic sports, but there will also be athlete profiles, news reports, VOD content, social media integration and much more.

“We’re open for business and receiving content proposals from content creation companies,” says Parkman. “We’re also talking to Olympic rights’ holders about creating content. But right now we are asking content creation companies to submit everything from digital short programming as short as 10 seconds to ideas for half-hour, hour-long and 90-minute programmes.”

Original content plans

Parkman says that content creation partners have been energised as the IOC has given them a blank slate for ideas. “We’re asking them to be creative and think of things that have not been done before,” he says of a desire to make sure the content speaks to a younger demographic that has grown up on YouTube videos. The plan is to create 250 hours of original content in the first year. Meanwhile, the IOC has budgeted $490 million to be spent on building out the channel during the next seven years.

“We’re hoping it will become profitable but the primary goal is to raise awareness of Olympic sports and create more distribution for the sports and Olympic movement,” explains Parkman.

Chupin says it is important that the Olympic movement stakeholders see the Olympic Channel and as something that benefits them as it engages sport fan communities all over the world.

Chupin adds that developing a commercial strategy is important and that it will be an ad-supported model so that the content is free all over the world on different platforms. Discussions are ongoing with global sponsors of the Olympic movement to see how they want to be involved with the channel while on the local side Olympic sponsors will have first right of refusal before sponsor opportunities are made available to third parties.

Another key is to make sure that the public can find the Olympic channel on any platform, including linear channels that, to date, have been the backbone of Olympic content delivery.

“It is an ecosystem that will benefit all stakeholders in the Olympic movement,” says Chupin. “It is a digital-first platform but we also know that it needs to be relevant locally, and our broadcast partners are in the best position to understand their market and the interests of fans.”

The Olympic Channel team is also reaching out to other recognised federations and even other games to help give those sports and events a wider platform to promote their property.

The goal now is to get the Olympic Channel to a level that can impress rights’ holders, federations, and, most importantly, viewers and Olympic fans.

“We want to be ready content wise and technically and will launch at a time that makes sense for the platform,” says Parkman.

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