The long rumored US Olympic TV channel has been given the green light. The USOC announced earlier today that the new channel, officially called, the U.S. Olympic Network (USON) will launch shortly after the 2010 Winter Olympic Games ins Vancouver. The USOC’s intent is to provide exposure to the Olympic movement outside of the actual games and give air time to lesser publicized sports like Team Handball. (Yes, Team Handball along with Judo were singled out as examples). The network will be a partnership with Comcast cable and will include video on demand and online programming. Much of the programming will be archival footage, but the network will also include original programming.
Beyond the USOC family, though, not everyone was pleased with the launch of the network. Richard Carrión, an IOC executive board member criticized the deal indicating that it hadn’t been fully coordinated with the IOC and that there were concerns as to how it would affect future TV rights. Additionally the new channel will eventually become a direct competitor of NBC’s Universal Sports channel http://www.universalsports.com/, which is already operating in some markets and online. While USOC representatives indicated that the two channels would compliment each other, they did concede that there would be some level of competition when NBC’s rights to Olympic Trials will expire after the 2012 Olympics.
Commentary: On the surface this looks like great news for Team Handball in the U.S. It’s 8 months, though, until the Vancouver Olympics are over on February 28, 2010 and a lot of things can happen in the interim. We’ve been waiting for years for a broadcast outlet for the sport in the U.S., so I guess we can wait a little while longer. Additionally, it remains to be see whether other cable networks and satellite channels will pick up the Comcast network channel. Sometimes the negotiations between these outlets can take forever.
USOC: USOC and Comcast partner to launch the U.S. Olympic Network: http://teamusa.org/news/article/14101 (Former USA National Team Goalie Matt Van Houten is quoted)
USOC: Olympic Family Reacts To USOC Network: http://teamusa.org/news/article/14134 (Steve Pastorino and former Olympians, Kathy Rex, Yaro Dachniwsky and Darrick Heath are quoted)
Seattle Times: Fulltime U.S. Olympic Network coming to TVs, computers in 2010: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/ronjuddsolympicsinsider/2009433094_fulltime_us_olympic_network_co.html
Washington Times: Olympic Sports 24/7, 365: http://www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/sportsbiz/2009/jul/08/olympic-sports-247-365/
USA Team Handball: Steve Pastorino Blog Post: http://www.usateamhandball.org/blog/post/968
New York Times: Olympics Channel Draws A Rebuke From the I.O.C.: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/sports/09olympics.html?ref=sports