ABC Bets On Skates

Call it a case of “where there’s ice, there’s fire.” A year after the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan soap-opera-on-ice began, ice skating of the non-hockey variety is a hot property.

Last week, ABC Sports acknowledged that it is jumping on a new package of figure-and speed-skating events, beginning in 1996. The net won’t confirm, but sources indicated that it’s a four-year deal worth a combined $45 million, nearly $20 million more than NBC paid for five years of virtually the same events through ’95.

Key to the deal is the primetime presence of the World Figure Skating Championships, which will get at least six evening hours on ABC in ’96, matching the six primetime hours that NBC gives it March 11-12.

The Alphabet web has the rights to the ’95 U.S. Figure Skating Championships – where last year, in Oregon, the Harding-Kerrigan drama began – and will air two hours of them in primetime Feb. 11. “The World Championship, though, is the biggest event in the sport,” said an ABC rep.

The ABC deal is with the Intl. Skating Union and includes the European Figure Skating Championships, the World Sprint Speedskating Championships, the World All-Around Speedskating Championships and the World Short-Track Speedskating Championships.

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