Uni Sports Gets Into Games

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Universal Sports will present live studio news and information programming, plus highlights and results updates, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Starting on Feb. 12, the first day of the Games, through the Feb. 28 closing ceremony, “Universal Sports at the Vancouver Games” will keep viewers on top of the action from five studio shows from sets in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., in Canada, as well as network facilities in Westlake Village, Calif.

Other elements will include continuous studio news updates every 30 minutes, as well as a live Olympic results ticker.

The goal is to proffer an in-depth, daily dose of Olympic news and information, while pointing viewers to what they can find on NBC's multiplatform coverage of the games, whether on broadcast, cable, video on demand, the Internet or wireless.

"Bringing Universal Sports to the Olympics enables us to open up a new dimension in how we cover the Games," said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. "For the first time we will have a platform that allows us to pause from coverage and focus attention on the evolving stories and excitement of the Olympic Games."

Noted Universal Sports chairman an\d CEO Claude Ruibal: “Our goal is to supply a 360-degree view of the Games, and to help direct viewers toward event coverage on the NBC family of networks and services."

The programming builds on the network's pre-Olympics news and information, under the “Countdown to Vancouver” banner, which runs for a minimum of five minutes per night at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. (ET). These segments, according to Ruibal, offer updates on such news developments as the latest athletes to qualify or the medical status of U.S. skiier Lindsey Vonn's injured arm.

As for the upcoming studio fare, the network will air Vancouver Olympic News Center and Buzz, a review of the previous day's action and results, plus analysis and interviews, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 am. During the next half-hour, Medals & Music will showcase medal ceremonies, highlights and the athletes accompanied by musical concerts from the Olympics.

At noon, Meet the Olympic Press will feature journalists discussing developing stories and hashing out the hot topics. A one-hour reprise of Vancouver Olympic News and Buzz will follow, leading into Olympic Review/Preview, which will supply in-depth analysis and set-ups from the different venues hosting the day's key competitions.

The Vancouver Figure Skating Hour then lands with the audience judges from 2- 3 p.m., eyeing all of the athletes and storylines from this marquee sport.

From 10:30 p.m. through 4 a.m., Universal Sports will feature live Olympic news updates every 30 minutes and round-the-clock results, via a news ticker.

Ruibal believes the Olympic fare will be a boon to the continuing rollout of Universal Sports, a joint venture between NBC Universal and Leo Hindery's private-equity firm, InterMedia Partners. Currently available to some 56 million homes, Ruibal expects that total to grow to almost 65 million by the time the Olympic flame is lit. During the weeks ahead, Ruibal says the network could add four or five new markets to reach the 49/50 mark, including Boston, the only holdout among the top 10.

“Affiliates have asked what Universal Sports will be during the Games. This demonstrates the network will be a wonderful destination for viewers seeking more info about the athletes and their performances, and that it also holds great value during the Olympic telecasts,” said Ruibal, adding that affiliates are interested in having local avails to sell.

Nationally, Ruibal said he anticipates that blue-chip Olympic advertisers including AT&T, which is currently sponsoring the aforementioned “Countdown to Vancouver” segments, and others will be part of Universal Sports' upcoming studio and news programming.

Asked if he envisions Universal Sports playing a similar role with the London Olympics in 2012, or if it will also present live Games action, Ruibal replied: “This is a great way for us to start with clips and news pieces. We'll have plenty of opportunities to evaluate if this is the right format or what other directions we should undertake.”