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Volume 21 No. 1
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USOC and IOC bridge digital divide, reach licensing agreement over archival Olympic footage

The U.S. Olympic Committee struck a digital licensing agreement with the International Olympic Committee, defining for the first time the types of archival Olympic footage it can feature on its Team USA website and YouTube channel.

The agreement, which runs through 2040, gives the USOC the right to use IOC-owned Olympic footage and images to create video and features that highlight Team USA performances and athletes at past Olympic Games. It also makes the IOC’s worldwide YouTube channel available in the U.S. and stipulates that the IOC will feature videos with global perspective, highlighting the entirety of a Games or several countries and athletes.

The accord seems benign, but the USOC and IOC have had disputes in the past over the right to archival Olympic footage. The USOC attempted to launch an Olympic network in 2009, but the IOC squashed it saying that it hadn’t granted the USOC the right to use the Olympic name or archival footage. The USOC claimed it had the rights to use the Olympic name and rings in the U.S. because they were granted to the organization by the 1978 Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

The USOC has worked since then to improve its relationship with the IOC, and it wanted to define the type of archival footage it could use online to avoid confusion and tension in the future.

“We have a good model on sponsorship [between us], and we have a great model on media rights, but we’ve never created a model for digital,” said USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird. “The mechanics of this agreement give us the clarity and processes for us both to do our separate brand building [online] and support our existing sponsors. The IOC will be at the global level, and we’ll do it here at the national level.”

In a statement, Timo Lumme, managing director, IOC Television and Marketing, said: “We are really pleased to have reached this agreement with the USOC, which follows on from our long term cooperation agreement reached in 2012. This additional agreement is essentially a technicality regarding the use of Olympic archive footage, but in practice means that Olympic fans in the U.S. will have access to the best Olympic content via the IOC’s and the USOC’s digital channels outside of Games time. It also underlines the great cooperation between our organizations.”

Prior to this agreement, the USOC had to go to the IOC and secure approval to launch its Team USA Channel on YouTube. But the agreement allows the USOC to run and operate that channel and program it with Team USA video without needing to renew its license from the IOC on an annual basis. Similarly, it makes it possible for the IOC to operate its YouTube channel in the U.S. without USOC consent.

“Before the clarity of what could be done in the U.S. territory was not there,” Baird said. “We’ve brought that clarity to it.”