SBJ/Sept. 23-29, 2013/Olympics

Paralympics to get live coverage from Sochi

NBC showed 5.5 hours from the London Paralympics; live Sochi coverage will reach 50 hours.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
NBC Sports Group is completing a deal to carry next year’s Paralympic Winter Games from Sochi live in the U.S. for the first time.

The deal, which NBC is making in partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee, will result in 50 hours of coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network, a major increase in broadcast coverage from the 5.5 hours of tape-delayed coverage the network offered during the London Paralympic Games last year. Additionally, NBC Sports Group has agreed to provide live streams to all Paralympic events that include American athletes for USParalympics.org. Unlike the Olympic Games — where broadband users have to be authenticated to download streams — anyone with a computer connection can stream these Paralympic events.

The deal has been close for the past month. The main deal terms have been agreed upon, but there are some minor issues that have needed to be ironed out. A formal announcement is expected soon.

“We look forward to announcing a new partnership with the USOC soon that will provide unprecedented coverage of the Paralympic Winter Games,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said.

NBC was criticized by disability groups and the International Paralympic Committee last year for not broadcasting more of the 2012 Paralympic Games. Though the company paid the International Olympic Committee a $1.2 billion rights fee for the London Games, the deal didn’t include Paralympic rights, and NBC did not acquire those rights from the IPC. The USOC did and sublicensed a 90-minute special to NBC and a four-hour cable package to NBC Sports Network.

IPC President Philip Craven last year criticized NBC’s lack of interest in the London Paralympic rights, saying, “I’m very disappointed for the athletes and I’m also very disappointed for the hundreds of millions of people who live in North America who don’t have the opportunity on a very easy basis to access what will be amazing images. Some people think that North America always leads on everything, and on this they don’t.”

A team of USOC and NBC executives traveled to the IPC’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany, over the summer and pitched the IPC on a rights agreement. The partners are paying a rights fee, but financial terms of the agreement weren’t available. The deal is expected to be completed early next week.

The coverage plan from Sochi is much more extensive than previous Paralympics. NBC offered only a 90-minute recap of the Beijing Paralympics and 5.5 hours of tape-delayed coverage from London. For Sochi, it has committed to carry around 3.5 hours on its broadcast network and 46.5 hours on its cable channel, NBCSN.

Coverage starts March 7 with the opening ceremony and runs through the closing ceremony March 16.

The Winter Paralympics is made up of five sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, sled hockey and wheelchair curling.

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