SBD/January 10, 2012/Media

Universal Sports Removed From Free TV, Now Pay-TV Net

Universal Sports Network was "removed from free over-the-air TV in the Philadelphia area and 51 other cities on Jan. 1," and the channel is now available "only behind the pay wall on cable and satellite," according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Part of the "boom in 24-hour sports programming, Universal Sports is partly owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal." Universal Sports' rights portfolio "comprises deals with 16 international and six U.S. sports federations." It "presents 1,200 hours a year of skiing, figure skating, track and field, and swimming." Universal Sports CEO David Sternberg said that the channel had "built an audience through its multicasting and always had planned to pursue the pay-TV model." He "estimated Universal Sports reached about 36 million homes through over-the-air multicasting." Though Universal Sports now will "reach fewer homes, the pay-TV model offers a dual revenue stream through subscriber fees and advertising." Sternberg said that Universal Sports is "not averse to being put in a sports package" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/10). Sternberg said that Universal Sports has been "working diligently to close carriage pacts with distributors throughout the multichannel universe and expects to announce a pact, perhaps as early as this week." MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted the net "inked its first license fee deal with satellite-TV provider DirecTV last summer." Through the multicast agreements and the DirecTV deal, Universal Sports was "in front of some 63 million homes in 52 markets last year." However, since the net was "retransmitted on digital cable in only a selected number of the markets -- and lacked such rights in many others -- it only counted 30 million actual cable subscribers, plus another 6 million over-the-air only households." Sternberg said the net was "pretty far along" with two or three others cable companies. Sternberg: "We could get to the finish by the end of the month" (, 1/9).
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