A new network devoted to coverage of Olympics-based international and domestic sports tournaments hopes to get out of the starting blocks with a 2006 launch.
Privately-owned, California-based World Championship Sports Network holds exclusive U.S. coverage rights to more than 20 domestic and international athletic federations, representing over 20 Olympic sports. The network holds the rights to over 1,200 hours of annual original programming, as well as thousands of hours of archival footage, according to founder Claude Ruibal.
While networks such as College Sports Television, Fox College Sports and ESPNU hold the rights to the majority of such events on the college-conference level, Ruibal said that most international tournaments are either ignored by networks or are aired on a taped delay several weeks after they conclude.
“We’ve always understood that there was a frustration by a number of viewers about the amount of coverage and visibility they had in the U.S.A.,” he said. “These sports are vibrant in the U.S., but don’t get much television coverage.”
Ruibal hopes to draw a licensing fee similar to networks like CSTV — which are in the neighborhood of 10 to 20 cents — and is seeking basic-cable distribution, although he would not rule out sports-tier carriage. He said the network is currently in negotiations with several MSOs, but would not identify the distributors or other particulars.
He admitted sports such as track and field, swimming, fencing and cross country skiing don’t generate ratings gold, but they do have a loyal following that will tune in if they’re offered on a regular basis.
“There’s clearly a valid niche audience that will be significantly interested in seeing these sports, and I believe that we can grow beyond that niche, in time, with the identification of athletic heroes around some of these sports and getting people excited about following these heroes.”
To further build value in the channel, Ruibal said WCSN will offer 25 hours of video-on-demand programming per month, refreshed weekly.
It will also offer feeds in various languages for events popular among certain ethnic groups.
“With the table tennis world championships, for example, we can offer that event in English on one satellite feed and then have a track that has Mandarin [Chinese], Japanese and Korean — all three markets that have fairly strong following and interest in table tennis,” he said.