TSX REPORT: Winter Youth Olympic Games “metaverse” could be the future; ESPN and NCAA to ink eight-year, $920 million rights deal

Scenes from the Gangwon 2024 metaverse app for the Youth Olympic Winter Games starting 19 January (Photo: Gangwon 2024).

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1. Is the Winter Youth Olympic Games “metaverse” the future?
2. Olympic sports nowhere in top U.S. TV audiences of 2023
3. NCAA and ESPN agree on 8-year, $920 million championships deal
4. MetLife Stadium converting seats for 2026 FIFA World Cup
5. Paralympic star Pistorius paroled from prison

● The Winter Youth Olympic Games starts in Gangwon, Korea on 19 January and will be showcased in a metaverse project from the province and the national Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology. It could foreshadow major changes in the future of the Olympic Games.

● Football dominated the U.S. sports television scene in 2023, with the top 50 telecasts in audience size all from NFL games. No Olympic-sport events (including team events in international competition) made the top 50 of events outside of the NFL.

● The NCAA and ESPN agreed on an eight-year extension of U.S. rights to national championship events in sports outside of Football Bowl Subdivision and NCAA Division I men’s tournament games, but including women’s basketball, for $920 million, a huge increase over the prior deal.

● New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium is re-working its sideline seating plans to offer FIFA a full-sized field for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and seeking to host the championship match. It is believed that MetLife and AT&T Stadium in Dallas are the favorites for the final.

● Paralympic sprint star Oscar Pistorius of South Africa was released on Friday on parole and will be on probation – with close supervision – into 2029, almost 11 years after shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He has maintained that he mistook her for an intruder.

World Championship: Ice Hockey (U.S. and Sweden advance to men’s World Juniors final) ●

Panorama: Cross Country Skiing (Diggins and Amundsen lead in Tour de Ski heading into final weekend) = Ski Jumping (Teen star Prevc completes sweep in Villach) ●

Is the Winter Youth Olympic Games “metaverse” the future?

During the International Olympic Committee presidency of Thomas Bach (GER), the Youth Olympic Games has been transformed into a living laboratory. At the 2018 YOG in Buenos Aires (ARG), the concept of an out-of-stadium opening ceremony was demonstrated at the famed Obelisco; six years later, the opening of the 2024 Olympic Games will be on the Seine River in Paris.

Also in Buenos Aires, break dancing debuted and made such an impression, the Paris 2024 organizers added it to the Olympic program.

So when an new concept debuts at a YOG, it’s worth paying attention to. On Thursday, the IOC shared a new project for the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon (KOR), opening on 19 January:

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Gangwon 2024 Organising Committee (YOGOC) and the Gangwon-do Province, with the support of the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology (MSIT), announce the launch of a metaverse focused on the Winter YOG Gangwon 2024 as an extension of the Gangwon-do Province’s Metaverse.”

What is this? The announcement described it as

“From virtual tours of the venues to games and challenges where fans can compete against other users in online mini games of ski jumping, bobsleigh and curling, the Gangwon 2024 Metaverse enables fans to engage with the YOG in new and exciting ways. Users based in the Republic of Korea will also be able to enjoy streaming of sporting events. The metaverse also provides an opportunity to meet and interact with other fans around the world as well as inspiring visitors to try new winter sports and learn about the Olympic values.”

The application runs in six languages and allows users to create their own avatar, which can do a hip-hop dance and a “YOG dance,” whatever that is. Visits are enabled to nine venues, the Youth Olympic Villages and four tourist attractions of the region.

Observed: Those looking to the future can see the possible applications of such a program for the IOC and every International Federation. A multi-lingual platform to which personal subscriptions can be sold, allowing direct viewing of events (live or on-demand), and gaming with personal avatars against current or historical stars, not to mention merchandise sales, trading of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), betting, ticket sales and so on.

Could a future metaverse project eliminate the need for rights-holding broadcasters altogether, with the IOC selling directly to consumers around the world? Eventually, yes!

That’s why this introductory program is interesting on multiple levels, and bears watching, especially of engagement levels among the younger demographic.

Olympic sports nowhere in top U.S. TV audiences of 2023

Nielsen’s U.S. television audience rankings for the calendar year 2023 are out, with American football completely dominating the lists.

As far as the top 50 sports broadcasts of the year, they were all National Football League games, topped by February’s Super Bowl between Kansas City and Philadelphia, with 112.17 million viewers. The no. 50 broadcast was of the January “wild card” playoff match between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville, at 20.61 million.

Not including NFL games, the top 50 audiences included 18 college football games, 13 NBA games, 10 college basketball games (all in the NCAA Tournament, including the women’s title game), six Major League Baseball games (all in the playoffs), and one event each in auto racing, golf and horse racing. No. 50 on that list was the third game of the baseball World Series between Texas and Houston, which drew 8.13 million viewers.

The top Olympic-sport event was the U.S. vs. Netherlands group-stage match on 26 July on FOX and Telemundo, which drew 7.59 million combined.

This was a year without an Olympic Games; beyond the women’s World Cup and other football matches, the USA Gymnastics Championships featuring the return of Simone Biles drew 2.664 million on NBC on 27 August. The top audience for the World Athletics Championships in Budapest was 1.32 million on NBC, also on 27 August.

NCAA and ESPN agree on 8-year, $920 million
championships deal

ESPN and the NCAA announced an eight-year agreement worth a total of $920 million for an extension of its rights to national championship events beginning in the fall of 2024, with 40 NCAA championship events to be included:

Men (20):
● Baseball
● Basketball (Divisions II-Division III)
● Basketball (men’s Division I international rights)
● Basketball (men’s National Invitation Tournament)
● Cross Country
● Fencing
● Football (FCS-Division II-Division III)
● Gymnastics
● Ice Hockey
● Lacrosse
● Soccer
● Swimming & Diving
● Tennis
● Track & field (indoor and outdoor)
● Volleyball
● Water Polo
● Wrestling

Women (20):
● Basketball (Divisions I-II-III)
● Basketball (women’s National Invitation Tournament)
● Beach Volleyball
● Bowling
● Cross Country
● Fencing
● Field Hockey
● Gymnastics
● Ice Hockey
● Lacrosse
● Soccer
● Softball
● Swimming & Diving
● Tennis
● Track & field (indoor and outdoor)
● Volleyball (Divisions I-II-III)
● Water Polo

The deal was reported at $115 million per year (vs. $40 million now), with a value of $65 million a year placed on the women’s basketball tournament by the NCAA. Multiple events will again air on ABC.

MetLife Stadium converting seats to land
2026 FIFA World Cup final

The Associated Press reported that MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is re-working its field-level seating to create more space for 2026 FIFA World Cup matches in its continuing effort to land premium matches, including the championship game.

A total of 1,740 seats are in discussion to be moved to create a full-sized field. The stadium, opened in 2010, seats 82,500.

FIFA requires a 105 m by 68 m field for World Cup play, and the current MetLife dimensions offer 105 m in length, but 64 m in width. Stadium spokesperson Helen Strus indicated that changes to the corners and along the sidelines were needed and  will be replaced after the World Cup with removable seating sections.

MetLife Stadium and AT&T Stadium in Dallas are mentioned as the most likely sites for the 2026 FIFA World Cup final.

Paralympic star Pistorius paroled from prison

South African Paralympic sprint star Oscar Pistorius is due to be released from prison on Friday (5th), just short of 11 years after he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home.

Now 37, Pistorius won six Paralympic Games golds in the 100-200-400 m in 2004-08-12, but then shot Steenkamp on 14 February 2013, claiming he believed she was an intruder. He was convicted in September and sentenced in October of 2014 to five years imprisonment. He was briefly released in 2015, then re-sentenced to six years and then 13 years on appeals.

He was granted parole in November 2023 and will be released Friday. He will not be allowed to speak to news media; the South African corrections department released a statement which included:

“Just like other parolees, Pistorius is restricted from conducting media interviews. An elevated public profile linked to Pistorius does not make him different from other inmates nor warrant inconsistent treatment.”

He will be under supervision by the state correctional authorities until his full sentence period runs out in December 2029.


● Ice Hockey ● The United States and host Sweden will play in the final of the IIHF men’s World Junior Championship in Gothenburg on Saturday.

The home Swedes (5-1) won the first semifinal at the Scandinavium before 11,512 fans with a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic (3-3), breaking open a 2-2 tie with three third-period goals. Forward Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored on a power play at 5:14 of the period to re-take the lead, then forward Noah Ostlund got an even-strength goal at12:00 and Lekkerimaki got his second of the game at 13:02 for the 5-2 final. Sweden had a 15-8 shots edge in the third to thrill the home crowd.

The U.S. (6-0) had to come from behind against Finland (3-3), trailing 2-0 at the end of the first period, after goals by Oiva Keskinen just 1:51 into the game and then Rasmus Kumpulainen at 12:45.

But in the second period, a Finnish penalty led to a power-play goal from forward Jimmy Snuggerud at 12:10 and forward Will Smith tied it at 2-2 with a score at 16:16. The two sides played another 20 minutes without scoring, but with just 3:13 left in the third, forward Cutter Gauthier scored on a power play for a 3-2 lead. But 40 seconds later, the U.S. suffered a hooking penalty on Gabe Perreault and had to sweat out the power play to secure the 3-2 victory and advance to the final.

The top two goal scorers in the tournament will feature in the final as Gavin Brindley of the U.S. and Finland’s Lekkerimaki both have six goals. The overall scoring leader is Gauthier of the U.S., with 12 points (2+10).

The U.S. has won this title five times, in 2004-10-13-17-21 and has been second twice; the Swedes won in 1981 and 2012, but has lost in the final 11 times, most recently in 2018. The two sides met in the 2013 final in Ufa (RUS) with the Americans taking a 3-1 win.


● Cross Country Skiing ● Through five of seven stages of the 2024 Tour de Ski women’s tournament, American Jessie Diggins has a 44-second lead and has won medals in four of the five events held so far.

She collected another bronze on Thursday in the 20 km Classical Pursuit in Davos (SUI), finishing behind Finland’s four-time Olympic medal winner Kerttu Niskanen (1:12:00.7) and U.S. teammate Rosie Brennan (1:12:01.5), just 0.8 behind. Diggins was third in 1:12:09.4, claiming her eighth medal in the 14 World Cup races held so far.

Diggins won the 2021 Tour de Ski, the only American ever to do so, and she leads Niskanen – who has won two of this season’s Tour de Ski races – by 44 seconds, Jonna Sundling (SWE) by 52 seconds and Heidi Weng (NOR) by 57 seconds. The remaining races are in Val di Fiemme in Italy, with a 15 km Classical Mass Start on Saturday and a 10 km Freestyle Mass Start on Sunday.

The men’s leader is overall World Cup seasonal leader Harald Amundsen of Norway, who won his third race of the 2023-24 campaign in the 20 km Classical Pursuit in 57:57.7, trailed by teammates Henrik Doennestad (57:58.2) and Martin Nyenget (58:32.3) for a medals sweep.

Amundsen now has a 1:39 lead on Doennestad and Nyenget heading to Val di Fiemme. He also has a 929-734 lead on two-time defending World Cup champ Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), which had to skip the Tour de Ski due to illness.

● Ski Jumping ● The unstoppable Nika Prevc, still just 18, continued her supremacy on the FIS women’s World Cup tour, winning her fourth event in the last five with a sweep of the jumping off the 98 m hill in Villach (AUT) on Thursday.

Prevc (SLO) dominated, earning the top scores in both rounds and finishing at 275.6 points, well ahead of Austria’s Worlds Normal Hill silver winner Eva Pinkelnig, 35, who had the second-best jumps in both rounds and scored 255.3. Slovenian Nika Kriznar, the Beijing Olympic Normal Hill bronze winner, took the bronze Thursday at 251.8.

Pinkelnig, the 2022-23 World Cup seasonal winner, has also been on a tear, with a win and consecutive silvers in her last three starts.

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