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Volume 21 No. 39
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World Equestrian Games reaches TV deal with NBC Sports

The sprawling Tryon Resort in North Carolina will play host to the event next September.
NBC Sports Group has signed on to televise the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, which will be staged at a new $200 million facility near Charlotte.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which will be announced this week. But Mark Bellissimo, founder and CEO of the Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort, where the event will take place in September, described the deal as a partnership versus a traditional pact involving a rights fee.

NBC’s broadcast channel and NBCSN will combine to televise nearly 15 hours of live coverage. The Olympic Channel will air more than 50 hours of the remaining coverage. The event is expected to attract 500,000 people over its 13 days of competition from its location in Mill Spring, N.C., about 70 miles west of Charlotte.

Held every four years, the international event involves competitions across eight disciplines, including endurance riding, show jumping and vaulting.

“There are a lot of things that people don’t understand about the sport, and there’s over 250 million people on Facebook alone who have an equine interest, which is pretty massive,” Bellissimo said. “So there’s an underlying, very fragmented population that likes horses — but it’s never been brought to the public in a way that we think we can for the first time in partnership with NBC.”

Tryon has invested $200 million in the venue in recent years. This edition of the World Equestrian Games will mark the first time that the event, typically run by municipality, has been run by a private company. The event was originally slated for Quebec, Canada, but the proposed host municipality couldn’t come up with the money to operate it.

Bellissimo noted that Tryon Equestrian Partners, which owns the venue, volunteered to take on the event. To do so, it had to work through the issue of having a sponsorship with Rolex. The World Equestrian Games has Longines as an official sponsor.

The complex, which plans to host equestrian events 40 weeks a year, has several venues for competition plus dining, shopping and lodging options. Bellissimo said the World Equestrian Games is ahead of budget in ticket sales, hospitality and sponsorships, and sold 100,000 tickets in the first week they were on sale. The event has landed several sponsorships that will soon be announced.

Other editions of the World Equestrian Games have taken place in Stockholm, Sweden; Normandy, France; The Hague, Netherlands; and Lexington, Ky.

“They’re excited to tap into this audience and use it as a way to introduce the sport to the American public, because in past competitions, it was never presented in a way that energized spectators and sponsors,” Bellissimo said. “I think we have a real opportunity to do that with NBC’s interest and distribution.”