NBC to Pass Olympic Trials Torch to USA

In its first programming synergistic deal since its proposed purchase of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC will look to move its U.S. Olympics Games trials coverage to USA Network.

The deal -- which will make USA the home of the U.S. Olympic team trials for the 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2012 Games -- is a prelude to USA gaining access to actual Olympics coverage, according to NBC officials.

But the move of the trials -- most recently carried by Pax TV -- to USA is contingent on NBC's purchase of USA parent VUE. NBC is expected to finalize its $14 billion deal in April or May.

If the deal is not completed, the trials will be aired on NBC-owned Bravo.

"We are delighted to provide a platform to showcase the best U.S. Olympic athletes and to brand USA Network as the home of the U.S. Olympic team," NBC Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol said in a prepared statement.

"We also intend to have Olympic coverage from Athens on USA if and when NBC and Universal complete their proposed merger," he added.

The deal would give USA 24 total hours of U.S. Olympic trials coverage this summer, including 11 consecutive Saturdays from May 22-July 24 and nine hours of live weeknight broadcasts from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, July 9-16.

NBC will televise an additional 18 hours -- 12 in primetime.

It's unclear how much actual Olympics programming would air on USA. CNBC and MSNBC carried portions of the 2000 Summer Olympics from Australia.

An NBC spokesman would only say that until the merger closes, "We can't discuss the plans in further detail."

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.