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SBD/Issue 201/Sports Media
USOC, Comcast Announce Plans To Launch New Olympic Network
Published July 8, 2009
COMCAST TO MANAGE THE CHANNEL: Comcast will have management responsibilities over the channel, but it will not be part of Comcast’s network group, which includes Versus, Golf Channel and several RSNs. Comcast has several similar network arrangements, including with SportsNet N.Y. and TV One. The channel is expected to feature a mix of live and taped events, documentaries on Olympic moments, biographies of athletes, and coaching and instructional videos. The USOC partnered with Comcast after previously approaching ESPN, Discovery and NBC with the idea. The network will face considerable competition from Universal Sports, NBC’s new sports channel dedicated to Olympic sports. The NBC channel, which already has distribution in 50 million homes, has rights to marquee international competitions such as the FINA World Swimming Championships and the Alpine World Ski Championships. That network is expected to announce additional distribution in the coming weeks. The partnership with Comcast ends three years of planning by the organization. Former USOC CEO Jim Scherr first spoke of the organization's intention to launch a network in July ‘06. He hired Bellingham, the former Senior VP/Strategic Planning at Turner Broadcasting, in October 2006 and put him in charge of the project. The deal with Comcast comes ahead of the IOC's plans to put U.S. broadcast rights for the ‘14 and ‘16 Games up for bid. The tender for the rights was postponed because of the economy and is expected to be held in ‘10. Many media and Olympic experts considered an alliance with the USOC an asset in bidding for the rights, but Comcast has not said whether it plans to bid or not. To date, only Fox, ESPN and NBC have expressed interest publicly in bidding for the rights.
LONG TIME COMING: USOC Acting CEO Stephanie Streeter said, “For fans of the Olympics, this new network will be a dream come true. What’s truly exciting about this opportunity for fans is that the USON will deliver rich exciting content.” Streeter added the USOC “hopes to not only inspire a new generation of athletes but also teach people about the value of the Olympic opportunities.” USOC Chair Larry Probst added the network “creates great new opportunities for our official USOC sponsors who have been looking for ways to promote their affiliation with the Olympic movement in between Games." Ueberroth said "Our revenues can go up dramatically based on sponsors can go to market every single day. ... This will only enhance more money for the United States Olympics ... and the national governing bodies."