Friday July 29th, 2016

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) just announced the launch of the Olympic Channel. Their new over-the-top (OTT) service will be made available to a global audience on August 21st, directly following the Closing Ceremony in Rio.

IOC’s free digital platform will feature year-round live sporting events, news, highlights and original programming, all centered around both the winter and summer games. The Olympic Channel will also have long-form and short-form pieces on athletes and events.

The channel will be available online as well as on their mobile and tablet app. The free app, which supports both Android and iOS devices, can be found on Google Play or the App Store.

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Users will be able to personalize their experience online and for mobile. This will allow fans to follow specific athletes, teams and sports. On-demand video will also be heavily featured. The content will only be offered in English initially, but there will be subtitle options in nine other languages.

The Olympic Channel is nearing the final stages of development. It will be made available for testing, closer to the August 21st launch date. Once it is launched, the digital-first platform will run content around the clock.

They hope to produce roughly 250 hours of original content in the first year alone. The Madrid-based Olympic Broadcasting Services’ team of 60 people, hailing from a total of 20 different countries, will help run and operate the channel. The marketing leg of the operation is stationed in the IOC’s hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC initially noted that the Olympic Channel will cost them about $600 million in the first seven years. The Olympic Channel has made it clear they will work with their broadcast partners to make their services the best they can be. This includes developing localized versions to help ensure content resonates with fans.

As of now 27 international federations have agreed to content partnerships with the channel, including swimming (FINA), basketball (FIBA) and gymnastics (FIG). They have yet to secure a partnership with FIFA or the IAAF, track and field’s governing body, due to conflicting TV rights.

Rio 2016 is only a week away and the channel will not be ready by then. This is most likely a strategic move as they work out how they will cover news and live events that are normally reserved for their broadcast and journalism partners.

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For most average fans, the Olympics are only relevant for two weeks, every two years. The channel hopes to foster much more year-round engagement, especially from a younger audience who is more digitally inclined to consume content.

The Olympics are very popular, but most causal fans are only aware of the athletes and their sports during those brief windows. The games will most likely never be longer than 17 days, and it is even less likely they will occur more than every four years. The IOC’s new Olympic Channel is simply hoping to generate more fan engagement by promoting their athletes and events year round, in a strikingly modern and digital way.

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