Virtual Olympic Series – What Does It Mean For Broadcasters?

Virtual Olympic Series – What Does It Mean For Broadcasters?

Sport News PlayBox


Amongst the chaos of 2020, the Tokyo Olympic Games were cancelled. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the event to be rescheduled due to athlete safety, halting years worth of planning and logistical work.

In April of 2021, news broke that a second Olympics event was to be held virtually. It almost came as no surprise – COVID-19 historically altered the course of the Tokyo Olympic Games, and the uncertainty of 2021 has created doubt for the rescheduled event and the safety of athletes. Pair that with the rising interest and audience figures of the esports phenomenon, and you could be onto a winner. As a result, the International Olympic Committee has decided to partner with five international sports federations and games publishers to bring the prestige and exclusivity of the Olympics to the virtual stage.

Officially dubbed the ‘Olympic Virtual Series’ (OVS), a month of virtual sporting events have been scheduled to connect esports audiences with the exclusivity and excitement of the traditional Olympic Games.

When does it start and finish?

The Olympic Virtual Series officially started on May 13th. Right now, it’s set to finish on June 23rd. Of course, with the flexibility offered by virtual events, this can change.

Is esports really a sport?

It has long been a belief that Esports could never be a real ‘sport’. Players in a League of Legends tournament were deemed to be worlds apart from the level of professional fencers, boxers and swimmers. For many, the idea of an athlete is very different from a person being sat at a computer screen playing video games.

The exact definition of a ‘sport’ is something that has been much debated throughout history. Most can agree that it involves skill, physical exertion and in many cases, teamwork and cooperation. By this definition, esports is almost certainly a sport.

The parallels don’t stop there, though. Esports coverage is broadcasted live to hundreds, thousands and even millions of viewers through streaming platforms like Twitch. In the sense that you might want your favourite football team to clinch a victory on the weekend, fans of esports pin their hopes on their favourite team winning big in a tournament.

But one thing is for sure – the Olympic Virtual Series has given a nod to esports in a big way. Perhaps the most prestigious sporting event in the history of the world has welcomed esports to its programming schedule!

How will this impact the future of the Olympics? 

With the Rio 2016 Olympics rendering diminishing viewing figures, the Olympic Virtual Series poses an optimistic step into the digital era. The OVS hopes to leverage younger generations’ engagement with virtual content and esports as a means for promoting the Olympic Movement, their values, and ultimately encouraging sports participation in an inclusive manner amongst young people.

However, critics have voiced some skepticism regarding the effectiveness of the Olympic Virtual Series, suggesting the sporting genres selected are not among those most popular within the competitive gaming and esports landscape. This raises questions about just how engaged users will be and how this will reflect on the responsiveness of the International Olympic Committee.

How will this impact the broadcasting industry?

Olympic investment in virtual events represents the beginning of even more innovation that we can expect to see in the larger event broadcasting landscape. For the Olympics in particular, there are a handful of recommendations within the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 outlining broadcasting related proposals, with specific reference to the utilisation of emerging technologies within the broadcasting arena to better portray Olympic values globally.

Coupled with this, the COVID-19 pandemic led to delays that have impacted the vast majority of worldwide events over the last 12 months. This has further encouraged broadcasters to think ahead and invest in innovative ways to enhance the consumer viewing experience with augmented reality, OTT developments and 5G facilitated innovations.

Could we expect regularly scheduled esports tournaments under the Olympics banner? It will largely depend on how successful the Olympic Virtual Series is perceived to be. Either way, expect to see the International Olympic Committee further embracing new broadcast technology in bringing the Games to our screens – whether that be on mobile, computer, tablet or via television.


2020 bought waves of change amongst the entertainment industries. Sports, events and broadcasting were all hit hard by the pandemic and the resulting uncertainty it created. Innovation was no longer a luxury, and became a necessity.

At PlayBox Technology, we have been working hard to continue supporting our broadcast, streaming and playout customers through the uncertainty. With remote capabilities already evident across our software range, broadcasters were immediately able to transition to at-home working to safeguard their operators. The cost-effective nature of our solutions and after-sales support also meant that streamers and broadcasters could benefit from broadcast-level reliability without having to worry about the effect on their bottom lines.

Whatever the project, our playout and streaming experts are happy to help out. Whether it’s a revolutionary new sports platform or an exciting new channel start-up, we have over 15 years’ of experience and after-sales support to match. Book a demo, or get in touch.