Yacht Race Sets Sail For Outdoor Life Net


Placing a greater emphasis on high-profile events, The Outdoor Life Network has acquired the rights to the Louis Vuitton Cup, the precursor to the America's Cup, beginning in October.

In a multimillion-dollar deal, OLN gained the rights to telecast more than 450 hours of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which features 10 teams from seven countries competing for the right to battle for the yachting world's biggest prize, the America's Cup, OLN CEO Roger Williams said. The tournament runs from Oct. 2002 to February 2003.

ESPN previously held the rights to the event, which runs every three years, but Williams said the sports network didn't devote nearly as many hours of coverage as OLN will.

"We'll showcase it like it's our Super Bowl, because for us it is," Williams said. "We'll be able to dedicate [to] the telecast hours and promotion that it richly deserves."

The Vuitton Cup is one of several high-profile events the network has acquired over the past year as it seeks to lift its profile. The service — purchased by Comcast Corp. last summer — also holds the rights to bicycling's Tour De France and the Calgary Stampede, the world's biggest rodeo event.

Beginning this week, OLN will also televise several U.S. Winter Olympics trials, including those for speedskating and curling.

OLN currently counts 37 million subscribers and is projected to hit the 55 million mark by the end of 2002. It's now at the point at which it can aggressively market and promote itself nationally, said Williams.

The network, which already produces more than 1,400 hours of original programming, is negotiating for rights to a number of marquee outdoor sports events, said Williams, although he would not specify them.

This summer, OLN will also embark on its first consumer marketing campaign with print, radio and on-air ads that tout its programming.

"We're now at a point with enough critical mass to ratchet up the profile of programming on the network," said Williams.