Anticipation for the London Olympics is reaching fever pitch. Tomorrow night's opening ceremony will usher in a month-long sports extravaganza where networks as well as sporting nations compete to capture hearts and minds. We take a look at what local and regional television networks are doing to claim the top spot.
A television extravaganza
A broadcaster's reputation among sports fans depends on how it treats the big events. With the exception of the football World Cup, nothing comes close to matching the sporting spectacle that is the Olympic Games. With 26 sports in competition and an estimated 14,000 athletes from more than 200 countries, the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of sporting events. You get the coverage right during the month, and viewers can easily forgive reruns of old sitcoms and inexplicable midseason breaks of the latest serials. Get it wrong and you endure four years of shame, not to mention a Facebook revolt when announcing the intention to broadcast the next big event.
On the starting line
Industry practice usually has one channel winning the sole rights to the Olympic coverage for a certain territory but viewers in the Middle East are spoilt for choice when it comes to viewing options. Three channels in the region have splashed the cash (up from 2010, this year's Olympic Games broadcasting revenue reached nearly US$4 billion alone) to host the event either free to air, through subscription fees or both. The broadcasters lining up on the starting blocks are Abu Dhabi Sports, OSN Sports and Al Jazeera Sports.
Abu Dhabi Sports
Already establishing its sports pedigree with its coverage of the English Premiere League and the Formula One racing season, Abu Dhabi Sports's coverage of the Olympics will be its biggest test yet and the team is set to make its mark with coverage spanning nine channels. Led by the anchor Mohammed Najib (also the head of all Abu Dhabi Sport channels), the channel's coverage will be led from its own studios in London. All sport events will be covered through its free and subscription channels, with the former hosting key events including the opening ceremony and the UAE's football matches, swimming and athletics. A morning sports news show, beginning from 10am, will also be available to catch up on all the action missed and yet to come.
To cover the gamut of the Olympics, OSN gives subscribers five new sports channels, taking its tally up to 19 channels dedicated to viewing the Olympics. As well as the high-definition formats and the Arabic and English commentary, there will be 10 OSN Play Live streaming channels available to view on your PC, Mac, laptop or iPad. With television remote control functions giving you the options to record, pause and rewind, you can create your slow-mo shots of that perfect dive or the anguished faces of hammer throwers.
Al Jazeera Sports
With years of experience in well-executed coverage of premiere sporting events, including the recently completed European Football Championships, everybody knows what to expect from the Qatar-based sporting giant: more shiny new studios, a gaggle of talking heads and coverage spread across its 10 channels and its HD platforms.