By David Owen at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo

An Olympic Television Channel is to be launched after delegates at the IOC Session backed the plan in Agenda 2020 ©IOC International Olympic Committee (IOC) members have unanimously approved the launch of a digital Olympic Channel, in a move acclaimed by Thomas Bach, the President, as "a great, great step forward".

With operational costs projected at €490 million (£385 million/$600 million) over the 2015-2021 period, the concept's proponents were forced to overcome concerns voiced by former sprinter Frankie Fredericks that this new expense should not absorb funds that would otherwise be earmarked for athletes.

But otherwise, IOC members agreed to take what Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), described both as a "historic step" and "a responsibility and a challenge of Olympic proportions" with enthusiasm.

"Not going into this is just not an option," said Camiel Eurlings, an IOC member from The Netherlands.

Ser Miang Ng, the former IOC Presidential candidate who is now chairman of the IOC Finance Commission, told members that the estimated breakeven period for the new channel, aimed particularly at improving the Olympic Movement's communication with young people, was seven to 10 years.

"After seven-10 years, we believe we have a very viable financial model," he said.

He exhibited new figures showing that the IOC itself would contribute €175 million (£138 million/$215 million), or nearly 36 per cent, of the projected €490 million costs, which include a 10 per cent contingency.

Sports federations and National Olympic Committees would each chip in €72 million (£57 million/$89 million), the Olympic Movement Fund €38 million, while the remaining €133 million (£105 million/$164 million) would come from incremental TV rights and TOP sponsorship programme sales.

Yiannis Exarchos (right), chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting Services, pictured here with Prince Albert, led the discussions on the creation of the new Olympic TV Channel ©SportelYiannis Exarchos (right), chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting Services, pictured here with Prince Albert, led the discussions on the creation of the new Olympic TV Channel ©Sportel

Exarchos explained that the intention was for the "always-on" global channel - which will make use of the IOC's extensive archive of footage from past Olympics and be based in Madrid - to be "the ultimate content and community for the Olympics".

Users would, he promised, be able to gain access in many different ways, including tablets and laptops, "matching the lifestyles of the youth of today".

Given the absolute necessity that the new channel should enhance rather than damage the heavy investment in Olympic content made by the IOC's global network of broadcast partners, the Movement's biggest revenue source, it will not carry live coverage of the Olympics themselves, unless by agreement with local rights holders.

It is, however, expected to broadcast coverage of other Olympic and non-Olympic sports events which do not, at present, benefit from mainstream television coverage.

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