SBD/Issue 2/Sports Media

Universal Sports Expanding Distribution To 30 Million Homes

At a time when new networks are experiencing problems growing subscribers, Universal Sports is set to announce a 15-fold distribution increase, from 2 million to 30 million homes. The increase, which is set to be announced today, comes without any new affiliate deals with cable operators. Rather, NBC is utilizing part of its multicast stream, which uses its digital signal to provide its main service, plus two sub-channels in various markets. One of those channels is called Weather Plus. The other is Universal Sports, the new Olympic channel co-owned by NBC Universal and InterMedia Partners. Thanks in part to NBC's retransmission consent negotiations with cable, the channel has added distribution in marquee markets, including Chicago and S.F. on Comcast; DC, Las Vegas and San Diego on Cox Communications; and Dallas-Ft. Worth on Grande Communications. The new distribution will allow the network "to have a real discussion with advertisers about reaching specific DMAs and demographics," said Universal Sports CEO Claude Ruibal. Since NBC partnered with InterMedia to create Universal Sports in June, the network has increased its distribution to 30 million HHs. "As we move into digital distribution next year, I think we can have 50 million or 60 million households," Ruibal said.

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