SBJ/January 21-27, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

New speedskating trials will be televised on NBC

U.S. Speedskating has created its first Olympic trials event for TV since 1992 ahead of the Sochi Games and picked up coverage on NBC for it.

The organization has struck an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Utah Olympic Oval to hold an Olympic trials competition for long-track skating from Dec. 27-Jan. 1 and short-track skating on Jan. 2-5, 2014. NBC and NBC Sports Network have committed to show more than 10 hours of competition live.

The first-time event is an effort by U.S. Speedskating to raise awareness of the sport ahead of the Sochi Games and generate new revenue for the national governing body. It comes at an important time for the organization, which attracted national attention last year when 14 skaters accused their national team coach of abuse.

“Is this a critical piece of moving forward for us? Absolutely,” said Tamara Castellano, U.S. Speedskating’s sponsorship and marketing director. “This allows us to shine a light on what we do best, which is produce amazing athletes.”

The national governing body historically determined its Olympic team through qualifying events in September, November and January. Those qualifiers were held before the International Skating Union told U.S. Speedskating how many spots it would have in an upcoming Olympic Games, so U.S. Speedskating held the events and then determined later which skaters would go to the Olympics.

As a result, the qualifiers lacked drama and were never broadcast. ESPN was the last network to broadcast speedskating trials when it showed short track in 1992.

To change that ahead of the 2014 Sochi Games, U.S. Speedskating overhauled its schedule and solicited proposals to host trials from Salt Lake City and Milwaukee. The Utah Olympic Oval ultimately won the rights to host the competition.

Van Wagner Sports, which assisted with planning the trials, and the USOC worked with U.S. Speedskating to get NBC Sports to broadcast the events. NBC, which is still determining its broadcast schedule, will sell the ad inventory during the broadcast.

Van Wagner, on behalf of U.S. Speedskating, will be able to sell on-site sponsorships at the event to USOC partners.

“It’s too early to say [if this will be profitable],” Castellano said. “I don’t know if we’ll have a lot of ticket revenue. I don’t know if we’ll sell a lot of merchandise. We really just want to name the best team we can and draw people in.”

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