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Volume 21 No. 2
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NBC floats new ideas to see what resonates

NBC Universal is looking to bolster its coverage plans for the America’s Cup by putting a reporter on a boat to offer in-race updates and postrace interviews.

NBC hopes to enhance coverage by placing a reporter on one of the boats for in-race updates.
It’s part of NBC’s effort to try new strategies with a new property to see what works and resonates with viewers.
When organizers of the America’s Cup last March bought time on NBC and NBC Sports Network for a series of races leading up to the America’s Cup, NBC planned to take the world feed, air it on both networks and supplement it with an on-air host and commentator. For coverage of the America’s Cup Series next month in San Francisco, the network is considering ways to enhance that coverage, including placing a reporter onboard one of the boats.

“It’s been a learning experience for us,” said Gary Quinn, senior director of programming for NBC Sports. “Each race we’ve added more [on site] because we’re more integrated [with America’s Cup organizers] now.”

Quinn added that NBC has looked to do more with its America’s Cup races because it’s been pleased with the ratings the races have delivered to date. The America’s Cup Series race broadcast on NBC in July delivered a 0.9 Nielsen rating, and the race broadcast in August delivered a 0.6 Nielsen rating.

“Those are good numbers for a sport that doesn’t get a lot of coverage here [in the U.S.],” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports president of programming.

America’s Cup organizers have undertaken a number of measures to make the sport more TV-friendly in 2013. They developed new boats that can race in most weather conditions, which will allow NBC and more than 30 other broadcasters worldwide to show the sport live. They also invested in a new graphics package called LiveLine for the worldwide feed, allowing viewers to identify race leaders and course boundaries more easily because of superimposed lines on the race broadcast.

Those changes helped the property buy time on NBC, which will be the first network to broadcast the America’s Cup live.

“We’ve been very happy with it,” Miller said. “The quality of production has improved. This sport in high definition is really spectacular.”

America’s Cup organizers have retained all the advertising inventory during the race broadcasts, and they’ve been bundling that inventory into their sponsorship packages. They hope to prove through their broadcast next year that the property is worth a rights fee in the future.

America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said the organization has held discussions with broadcasters in the U.S. and elsewhere about a long-term TV deal. He expects formal discussions to begin later this year. NBC is among the networks he will meet with about the future.

Miller said that NBC believes America’s Cup is a “good property” and is interested in what organizers “have to say,” but the network hasn’t committed to anything beyond 2013.