Website, cable channel to cover sporting event
“All Olympics all the time” is the rallying cry of NBC Sports’ new partnership, a joint venture with a website/fledgling cable network controlled by the private-equity firm InterMedia Partners.Formerly known as the World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), the site will get rebranded as UniversalSports.com in time for Thursday’s U.S. gymnastic trials in Philadelphia. Early next month, the WCSN 24/7 cable net, which reaches only 2 million or so subscribers, will also be redubbed Universal Sports. Claude Ruibal, who’ll continue as chairman-CEO of the operation, said the main job of Universal Sports leading up to the Beijing Olympics in mid-August will be to feature profiles of the athletes and streaming-video footage of their recent trials and previous wins. WCSN also has rights to footage of a number of Olympic sports, including track and field, skiing, swimming and gymnastics. NBC U’s ongoing NBCOlympics.com website will remain the primary online destination for video of Olympic trials leading up to the 17 days of summer in Beijing, as well as video of the events themselves during the Games, with much of the coverage delivered live. One big reason for the deal, said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC U Sports & Olympics, is that the Universal Sports network and website “will provide a terrific year-round home to almost all Olympic sports and the athletes.” NBC U aims to substantially beef up the clearance of Universal Sports by leveraging the marketplace clout of owning USA, Sci Fi Channel, Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, Oxygen Media and other cable nets. As a standalone network, WCSN was not able to get carriage beyond a few cable markets including Detroit as well as Buffalo and Albany, N.Y. Leo Hindery, managing partner of InterMedia Partners, engineered the deal with Ebersol.