Live From PyeongChang: At Its First Games, The Olympic Channel Finds Its Place
Olympic Channel News keeps many countries in the know; channel is primary live-rights holder in seven South Asian countries
You never forget your first time, and, at these Games, that’s true for the Olympic Channel. Launched immediately after completion of the Rio Summer Games in 2016, the Olympic Channel is here in PyeongChang supporting its first live Olympics coverage.
And although, in most of the world, the Olympic Channel does not hold any live-broadcast rights to these Olympics, its channel and website are offering robust coverage.
Olympic Channel broadcasts 24/7/365 in 11 languages, and, for many of its nation partners here in PyeongChang, it is serving as a highlights, original-programming, and news destination (OBS’s Olympic News Channel has been rebranded Olympic Channel News and is delivered to the network).
If the Olympic Channel isn’t broadcasting the Olympics, then what is it doing? The channel’s ultimate goal is to serve as a home for many Olympic sports and bolster the Games both during the Olympics and in the months and years when they aren’t going on. Many athletes come into viewers’ homes, become stars for two weeks, and then fade away until the next Games. Olympic Channel is here to keep the fire burning year-round.
“I’ll borrow a line from [NBC’s] Mike Tirico from when we launched the linear channel in the U.S.: ‘These athletes just don’t show up out of nowhere for two weeks every four years and then disappear,’” says Mark Parkman, GM, Olympic Channel. “These [athletes] are the elite of the elite, and they’re there 365 days a year as well. Now we have a platform, both online/mobile and linear television, to tell their stories 365 days a year.”
Much of the Olympic Channel’s efforts here in PyeongChang is centered on olympicchannel.com and its mobile apps, whose new features include embeddable widgets and media player (which can be used by partner rightsholders and various federations).
In seven countries on the Asian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal), the Olympic Channel is the live-rights–holding broadcaster of the PyeongChang Games. The channel is offering live coverage on its own streaming platform on its website, as well as across YouTube and Facebook. Although there are only four athletes from those combined nations and Parkman acknowledges that that part of the world isn’t known for its affinity for the Olympic Games, it’s a prime target for its Olympic messaging.
“It’s a youthful and highly mobile portion of the world,” he points out. “We wanted to get as wide a distribution as we possibly can and to build the brand, Olympic Channel, in that region, which is a huge region. It’s an important growth market for the Olympics themselves because it’s lots of young people using mobile phones: an attractive, emerging audience. It’s one of our priorities to engage with that part of the world.”
Olympic Channel also made headlines prior to the Games with its partnership with SnapChat. The media company’s original series Far From Home is currently available for viewing on Snapchat’s Discover page and a set of Olympic-themed filters, lenses, and stickers that offer Olympic Channel branding to further spread the messaging.
The Olympic Channel is headquartered in Madrid, where more than 100 staffers are rotating around the clock programming the various platforms throughout the Games. In Madrid, the channel has two control rooms, 12 edit suites, and various voiceover rooms. In PyeongChang, to streamline its efforts, the Olympic Channel’s social-media and news teams are working together to churn out a continuous stream of content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Olympic Channel is also furthering its commitment to storytelling with its premier series Five Rings Films. The channel is set to release its debut documentary film, The Nagano Tapes, chronicling the story of the 1998 Czech Republic men’s ice hockey team, which took gold at the first Olympics that permitted participation of NHL players. The film debuts in the U.S. on Feb. 28 on NBCSN.
“We’ve seen how others have been able to have incredible success in creating sport films and documentaries that resonate with an audience and, in some cases, go beyond the sport audience,” says Parkman. “We think that’s what we’re gonna try to do as well. We believe strongly that the original programming that we can create needs to be of a quality consistent with what you see when you see the five rings: you see excellence; you see the best in the world. We want to be the same thing.”
For more of our coverage from the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, including interviews, videos, podcasts, and more, visit our SportsTech Live Blog.