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Universal Sports to Close

NBCU is shuttering the Olympics-themed channel Universal Sports Network. Headed up by Scott Brown, Universal Sports airs in 65 million households across the U.S., but did not have carriage with key distributors such as Comcast and Cablevision. The channel’s majority owner is InterMedia Partners, who has Leo Hindery as managing partner, with NBCU holding a smaller stake.

NBCU will inherit some of the sports rights when Universal shuts down next month. “We are thrilled to be finalizing an agreement with Universal Sports that will provide NBCUniversal and NBC Sports with an impressive collection of media rights to some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. We will have more information regarding our plans when the transaction closes in November.”

Universal Sports was hatched as a free multicast channel and relaunched as a pay-TV net in 2012. It airs a mix of cycling, gymnastics, beach volleyball, skiing and other global sports with niche appeal in the U.S. Universal Sports has the rights to the current Rugby World Cup, with NBC airing one semifinal, New Zealand versus South Africa, Oct. 24, and Universal the other, Argentina versus Australia, Oct. 25. NBC will air the World Cup final Oct. 31.

Earlier this month, president Brown told B&C that Universal Sports was “very interested” in securing rights to the 2019 World Cup.

Michael Malone
Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.