Slovenian forward Anze Kopitar scores on Polish goaltender Przemyslaw Odrobny. It was one of 18 games from the Final Olympic Qualification broadcast live all over the world. Photo: Andrei Pokumeiko
New online channel bringing the games live
For the first time ever, the Olympic Qualification phase is being streamed live on the Olympic Channel, taking ice hockey a step further onto the global stage.
All games from the Final Olympic Qualification tournaments can be watched live on the Channel and the IIHF’s tournament websites from Minsk, Riga and Oslo by clicking on the Live! button in the menu during game time.
The Final Olympic Qualification coverage comes as a result of a landmark agreement that was reached between the IIHF and the IOC to collaborate on content for the Olympic Channel.
“A high level competition such as the Final Olympic Qualification tournament is the perfect opportunity to debut our new cooperation between the IIHF and the Olympic Channel,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “Thanks to this amazing new platform the three tournaments in Minsk, Oslo, and Riga are being delivered to a global audience.”
“The IIHF is very happy about this opportunity to work closely together with the Olympic Channel, which is another milestone in our New Media strategy to promote our sport on new channels using modern ways of communication,” said IIHF Marketing Director Christian Hofstetter.
The creation of the Olympic Channel was one of the key recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020, aiming to provide a new way to engage young people and core fans in the Olympic Movement, while also promoting the Olympic values on a consistent basis.
“The Olympic Channel will mark a major shift in how the Olympic Movement connects with young people all year round,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “The International Federations have embraced the Olympic Channel and we look forward to working with them on the exciting programming and promotional opportunities. The newly formed Olympic Channel team is making steady progress, with the emphasis on ensuring the product is right and the quality of the programming matches our ambition.”
The Olympic Channel was officially launched to a global audience via a mobile app for Android and iOS devices and at olympicchannel.com, following the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.
The Channel will broadcast live sports events, news and athlete stories, as well as historical Olympic footage and official films from the IOC’s archives. There will also be a focus on educational and youth-oriented programming, sustainability, sports science and nutrition, and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.
IIHF.com caught up with Marketing Director Christian Hofstetter and Mark Parkman, General Manager of the Olympic Channel, to discuss the vision behind the Olympic Channel cooperation.
What was the IOC’s vision for integrating ice hockey into the Olympic channel coverage?
MP: We, the Olympic Channel and IIHF, have a common goal to increase both the size of the audience for the sport and active participation in the sport, especially amongst the younger generations. This includes creating and distributing as widely as possible ice hockey-related content that is appealing to such an audience.
CH: There are a lot of great stories to be told when you think of all the players participating in these tournaments. The Olympics is the pinnacle of international ice hockey competition, and this is a great way to bring those stories to the world.
Is there a clearly defined plan for ice hockey coverage leading up to PyeongChang 2018?
MP: We plan on covering all of the sports competing in PyeongChang and look forward to promoting ice hockey through our coverage which will include original features, news, highlights and events leading up to the 2018 Winter Games.
CH: On the IIHF side the goal is to develop a stronger relationship as we get closer to the Games, and also to show the women’s qualification tournaments starting later this year, all the way through to the final qualification tournaments in 2017.
What kind of manpower are we talking about that is onsite now in Riga, Minsk, and Oslo?
MP: We have dedicated teams at each venue comprised of camera crews shooting content around the event including behind the scenes coverage, interviews and features in addition to on-site social media coverage.
CH: The Olympic Channel was introduced to the IIHF during the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Russia, and since then there has been a lot of discussions and site visits between the Olympic Channel, the IIHF, the Local Organizing Committees of the three tournaments, and the host broadcasters to make this project work.
How do you see this cooperation developing in the future?
MP: We want to do as much with ice hockey as we can to help promote the sport. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership in which we collaborate on content and initiatives in order to bring additional exposure to ice hockey all year long and outside of the Olympic Games themselves.
Will fans be able to access footage from past Olympic ice hockey games?
MP: Footage from past Olympic ice hockey games will be used within original programming, features and news stories on the Olympic Channel. For full replays, fans can already watch select matches from previous Olympics Games on our YouTube Channel.
With the increasing movement towards digital coverage of sporting events, where can this benefit ice hockey?
CH: With the increasing trend towards mobile and digital platforms, the arrival of the Olympic channel fills in a gap in our digital media coverage, where in the past we weren’t able to devote the same resources to covering these qualification tournaments as we would of the Ice Hockey World Championship. I think the Channel as it develops can give us a good blueprint as we build our own digital media projects for our regular tournaments.
MP: As a digital first and socially engaging platform, the Olympic Channel provides a destination for fans to follow their favorite sports as well as discover new ones within a dynamic environment to encourage interaction, including with ice hockey, on a regular basis. For example, the Olympic Channel includes an option to register for a richer and more personalised experience, where users can follow their favourite athletes, teams, sports and countries to receive an individually-tailored content selection.
Is there any early usage statistics of the Olympic channel? Are there certain countries (particularly non ice-hockey nations) that are watching?
MP: Since the launch of the Olympic Channel, public response has been positive overall; the app has a 4.7 rating on Google Play and 4+ in the App Store. In addition, our social media handles have amassed a community of more than 1.861 fans across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and have driven more than 10M video views in just a month.
Beyond game coverage are there possibly any plans to include alternative programming like ice hockey tutorials?
MP: On the Olympic Channel, ice hockey fans are encouraged to check out the ice hockey sport page for complementary programming in addition to events. The page features content on past Olympic Games as well as a feature on the evolution of ice hockey and a photo gallery and we intend to add more content that includes tips from athletes. It can be found by clicking on the “sport” button at the top of the page and selecting “ice hockey”, or by clicking here.