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Volume 25 No. 29
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Universal Sports TV Channel Set To Shut Down Operations On November 16

The Universal Sports TV channel is shutting down next month after nearly a decade in operation. NBC execs told the channel’s approximately 75 employees during an early morning meeting in L.A. today. The channel, which is majority owned by InterMedia Partners, notified distributors that its signal would be taken down Nov. 16. NBC, which holds a minority stake in the channel, will pick up the channel’s portfolio of Olympic sports rights. The decision to shutter Universal altogether was described as “shocking” by one source. It is unclear how it will use those rights on its existing channels, like NBCSN. NBC Sports Group emailed a statement saying, “We are thrilled to be finalizing an agreement with Universal Sports that will provide NBCUniversal and NBC Sports with an impressive collection of media rights to some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. We will have more information regarding our plans when the transaction closes in November.” The uncertainty surrounding Universal’s future, which has lasted throughout most of ‘15, has frustrated some Olympic sports NGBs as they tried to do deals covering ‘16 not knowing the channel’s future. Universal has been an enthusiastic broadcast partner for many of them for years, but the station’s lack of production prowess and meager distribution as an independent entity were longstanding challenges. NBC Sports has the distribution power of Comcast and Olympic rights through ‘32. U.S. Speedskating Exec Dir Ted Morris said NBC “obviously has an interest in promoting Olympic sports and Olympic athletes, and now all that being under one umbrella, to me sounds like a good idea.” Universal aired part of the Speedskating World Cup and the Apolo Ohno Invitational last season.