The NBC-owned Olympic Channel will debut July 15, replacing the Universal HD channel, which will cease operations on that day, Comcast has revealed at its web site.
Comcast owns NBC, which has invested heavily in obtaining the rights to live coverage of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Channel, which will be produced in partnership with the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee, will feature live events, video highlights, and segments and documentaries about the games and its athletes.
“As the U.S. home of the Olympic Games through 2032, and coming off the momentum of the incredibly successful Rio Olympics, we believe the time is right to enhance how we connect with fans of Olympic sports and athletes on a year-round basis,” NBC said in a press release last December.
Comcast said it will include the Olympic Channel in its Digital Preferred package in every market that currently carries Universal HD. DIRECTV and AT&T have also said they will carry the new offering at launch, but have not revealed the specific programming packages.
With pay TV operators now eliminating some niche channels to reduce acquisition costs, it’s a risky time to launch a new network. However, the Comcast and DIRECTV/AT&T deals will give the Olympic Channel debut carriage on the nation’s two largest pay TV providers, and more carriage deals are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Universal HD, which is also owned by NBC and Comcast, started in 2003 and offers a mixture of sports, movies, and reruns of such NBC-owned shows as Burn Notice and White Collar.
— Phillip Swann