Olympics inspires new 24-hour TV channel for niche sports

Following the 2012 Games, London Legacy hopes to harness increased interest in athletics, judo, gymnastics and other lesser-watched sports

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Olympics inspires new 24-hour TV channel for niche sports
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A new satellite TV channel is hoping to build on interest in the 2012 Olympic Games by providing round-the-clock coverage of minority sports including athletics, judo, gymnastics and track cycling.

Set to launch in November on Sky, London Legacy will feature 24-hour coverage of a total of 24 lesser-seen sports, also including handball, fencing and wrestling.

John Fairley, chairman of Highflyer, the independent TV production company behind the new channel, said the Olympics had exposed an "enormous opportunity" to make money by catering for those interested in watching niche sports.

"The amount of athletics on the main channels has been very small, especially when you think of all the disciplines within the athletics, but the Games has changed all that," said Fairley.

“A sport like judo has more than 40,000 [participants in Great Britain], many of them women and many of those under 16," he added.

"There is this enormous opportunity... and no sign that any of the main broadcasters is going to pick it up and run with it.”

London Legacy will initially be available to Sky subscribers only, but Fairley is seeking backers to enable wider distribution in the future. 

“We have had two or three companies, including one Olympic sponsor, make very serious undertakings in the last week," he said.

Almost 52 million people - around 90% of the UK population - watched at least 15 minutes of Olympics coverage on the BBC during the 2012 Games. The Opening and Closing Cermonies, and Usain Bolt's 100m final victory, captured the biggest audiences but niche sports also drew interest, with around 24 million using the BBC's digital red button service to watch dedicated streams.

Highflyer recently lost its contract to produce Channel 4's horse racing programme. The broadcaster will be expanding its coverage after winning the rights to show all major events - including the Derby and the Grand National - from the BBC and has signed a new deal with production company IMG.