NBC Universal is looking to keep people and advertisers interested in the Olympics outside of two weeks every two years with a new cable TV channel launching during the second half of 2017.
The "Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA" is a joint venture with the International and U.S. Olympic Committees and will air year-round Olympic programming from around the world, with a focus on American athletes and teams. Aside from live events, the network will also include Olympic-themed original programming and archive footage.
For the most part, advertising opportunities on the Olympic channel will be limited to top global IOC sponsors as well as team USA sponsors, said Gary Zenkel, president, NBC Olympics, during a call with press. But there will also be some limited opportunities in coverage of specific events that have their own sponsors.
The lineup of U.S. and global sponsors during the Rio Games included Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Hershey, which signed a five-year agreement with Team USA in fall 2015.
At launch, the Olympic channel will be available to DirecTV subscribers. NBCU will negotiate carriage agreements with pay-TV operators as their NBCU package deals expire, Mr. Zenkel said.
The network, which will be a completely new channel, not a re-brand of an existing network, comes following lackluster TV ratings during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Through the 17 nights of ceremonies and competition, NBC averaged 26 million viewers and a 14.9 household rating, a 15% decline from the 31.1 million viewers and 17.5 rating during the 2012 Summer Games. Ratings for Rio include broadcast and cable prime-time deliveries along with streaming data.
The biggest issue was an noticeable absence of millennials. NBC's prime-time Olympics coverage averaged a 5.3 rating among adults 18-to-34, a 31% decline compared to the 7.7 rating in the demo during the London Games.
But Rio generated $250 million in profit, making it the most economically successful Olympics in history.
While NBC missed its ratings guarantees, advertisers were satisfied with the company's make-good efforts. And regardless of viewership erosion, the Olympics still offer advertisers massive reach at a time when there are fewer TV properties that are being watched en masse.
The IOC bowed a digital Olympic Channel in August following the closing of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
This isn't the first time NBCU has tried its hand at a version of an Olympic sports channel. The company had a stake in Universal Sports Network, which covered events like gymnastics, swimming and skiing. Universal folded last year and NBCU acquired rights to some of these sports.