Universal Sports Moves To Cable, Satellite Outlets

Looking for a more business-friendly national distribution footprint, TV sports network Universal Sports is leaving its local over-the-air multicast markets and moving to one that is virtually exclusive through national cable, satellite, and telco distribution outlets.

Pushing this effort is an appeal to consumers through a marketing campaign called "I Want Universal Sports," which will include TV, radio, print, and digital ad buys. The Olympics-sport focused challenge is owned by NBC and InterMedia Partners.

Part of the strategy is transitioning to what the company calls a "multiplatform, high-definition service." The changeover will start in January 2012. Veteran Olympic broadcaster NBC will be airing the Summer Olympics games in London next summer.

Among other things, the company wants to take advantage of the affiliate fee-model that national TV distributors have to offer. Analysts say it will also benefit by grabbing bigger nationally focused deals from advertisers.



David Sternberg, CEO of Universal Sports, stated: "We have demonstrated the extraordinary value of our content and brand, and our new business model will allow us to recognize that value while helping our distribution partners to grow their high-definition video and digital businesses."

Sternberg added that since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, it has provided viewers with global sports programming in more than 50 U.S. markets.

Universal Sports launched on DirecTV nationwide in July with some programming, with a formal start in October in one of the satellite TV distributor's sports programming packages.

Universal Sports says it is in current discussions with other distributors. The network is available to 63 million U.S. homes in 51 markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Denver, San Diego and San Francisco.

Universal Sports has reportedly said many deals with its stations for local multicast signals will expire by the end of the year. They started up in 2008 when the network launched.

Universal Sports just completed airing of a major grand tour road bike race, the Vuelta a Espana, and is currently airing the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which begins Sept. 9.

Both Universal Sports and NBC Universal's more fully distributed sports network Versus (which becomes NBC Sports Network come January 1), will air some Olympics programming next summer, as well as other NBC Universal networks and platforms.

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