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paidContent - USOC Launching Olympics Channel With Comcast; IOC Not Happy About The Name

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Rafat Ali
paidContent.org
Wednesday, July 8, 2009; 6:29 PM

That was quick: The United States Olympic Committee announced this morning that it will launch a cable TV network devoted to Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, along with Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) who will carry it in its lineup. Comcast is an equity partner in the channel. And soon after that, the International Olympic Committee officials came out with a strong rebuke for USOC, saying that they hadn't approved the usage of "Olympic" word for the channel. (Update: NBC Sports declined comment.) Yes, while the media world continues to implode, IOC continues to keep burying its head in the sand when it comes to the highly lucrative media rights. Just last month, Reuters EIC asked IOC to grow up, and to rethink its media accreditation rules to allow audience members to report from the Games. Relations between USOC and IOC haven't been very civil lately, as NYT reports here.

IOC is worried about how this new launch would affect its long-time U.S. broadcaster NBC, which has the TV and digital rights until 2012. ?We?ve given the rights to NBC to be the Olympic network, and I don?t think something else called the Olympic network will fly,? said Richard Carrion, an I.O.C. executive board member, to NYT. This mission also conflicts with NBCU's Universal Sports channel/website, which was launched last year after the media company took over WCSN. USOC/Comcast have said they have no plans to bid for Olympics rights in the future; ESPN (NYSE: DIS) has previously said it would bid for future right.

The channel is slated to launch next year, to cover Olympics sports that don't get the coverage in mainstream sports channels, and focus on U.S. athletes working to compete in the biggest sports competition. "Viewers will be able to watch live coverage of championship competitions and, after 2012, Olympic trial events in a wide range of sports, plus live, non-stop news reports, commentary, interviews from the locations of future Olympic and Paralympic Games, and classic Olympic footage through its exclusive U.S. access to thousands of hours of programming," USOC said in the launch release. There will also be a VOD and online/broadband component to it. The USOC intends to use a significant portion of its net proceeds from the network's operations to help fund the training of American athletes, it said. Interestingly, Allen & Co was the advisor on the deal, and this was announced at its Sun Valley confab going on this week.

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