With little fanfare last week the U.S. Olympic Committee acknowledged that plans for an official Olympic TV channel in partnership with cable giant Comcast are officially over. Last summer the USOC announced that the new channel would start broadcasting after the Vancouver Olympics and would be a platform for minor sports like Team Handball to get more exposure. A combination of events, however, quickly squelched its prospects. First the IOC raised its ire that the proposed channel was not coordinated with them and that that it might impact future TV contracts. Behind the scenes, current Olympic broadcaster, NBC was also not happy with the prospect of a new network competing with their Universal Sports Channel. Finally, NBC and Comcast began discussions of a possible merger which raised the prospect of the two competing channels being owned by the same company.
Analysis: While this particular venture is over, it appears likely that Comcast will soon have ownership of the Universal Sports Channel. This channel, which is primarily a webstreaming platform already broadcasts several Olympic sports and would likely welcome an official Olympic title/arrangement with the USOC. But, lurking in the background is sports giant, ESPN, which is said to be very interested in acquiring the U.S. TV rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics. If the USOC is smart they will structure the upcoming bid to include a commitment from the would be winner to establish a full time Olympic Network. Such a network should also include a commitment to have a 90% market penetration in the U.S. and to regularly broadcast events from every Olympic sport.
While it’s disappointing to see another opportunity for Team Handball to be broadcast on TV in the U.S. fall by the way side, rest assured it’s just a matter of time before it becomes a reality. In fact, I was recently surprised to find out that it appears to have been a reality all this season for subscribers to the “My Sports Germany” channel on satellite TV provider Dish Network. According to their website and and an unofficial schedule, German HBL matches are regularly being broadcasted. Too bad the HBL neglected to inform me of this possibility when they denied me internet access this past fall. Looks like I may be switching TV providers for the 2010-2011 season.
Sports Business Daily (21 Apr 10): USOC, Comcast End Agreement To Launch New Olympic Channel: http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/article/138719
THN (9 Jul 09) Olympic TV channel set to launch after 2010 Olympics: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.790
Universal Sports Website: http://www.universalsports.com/
Dish Network info on My Sports Germany: http://www.dishnetwork.com/packages/channel.aspx?channel=53146
Unofficial Schedule: http://tvlistings.zap2it.com/tvlistings/ZCSGrid.do?sgt=grid&stnNum=64864&channel=&fromTimeInMillis=0
THN (22 Sep 09): German Bundesliga blocks internet Handball broadcasts to rest of world: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.827