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Universal Sports Net Lands DirecTV Deal

Clearing a huge distribution
hurdle, Universal Sports
Network has inked a multiyear,
multiplatform distribution pact
with DirecTV.

The network is slated to launch
on a free preview basis to all of
the No. 1 satellite-TV provider’s
19.4 million customers by early

Universal Sports, which presents
an array of Olympic-related
sports, will then become part of
DirecTV’s Sports Pack, and other
select packages — placements
which have not yet been finalized
— on Oct. 1.

The contract also contains
provisions for pay-per-view programming
around Universal
Sports coverage from the 2011
Rugby World Cup this fall.

Moreover, Universal Sports
will jump into the 3D arena, as
it will make select matches from
that competition in New Zealand,
as well as certain events from the
IAAF World Championships,
available to DirecTV.

In addition to the linear rollout,
Universal Sports fare will be
available under “TV Everywhere”
platforms, encompassing the
Internet, mobile and tablet devices.
DirecTV is expected to make such
offerings available in the near future,
according to the parties.

Subscribers to Universal Sports
also will have access to supplemental
live Internet streams of
events not aired on the linear network.

Terms were not disclosed.

Universal Sports, a joint venture
of NBC Sports Group and
Leo Hindery’s InterMedia Partners,
is currently available to
more than 60 million homes via
multicast distribution, so the
DirecTV deal represents a significant
jump in reach.

“We’re very excited about this
deal with DirecTV,” David Sternberg,
CEO of Universal Sports,
said in an interview. “I think our
ability to present content on any
screen, any platform is one of our
major selling points. This was big
move toward this network becoming
more fully distributed
and financially viable.”

Sternberg said he and members
of the network’s affiliate
team were discussing those
and other network assets at last
week’s Cable Show in Chicago.

“We’re in a lot of active conversations
with a number of distributors
and are confident that we’ll
be in front of lot more folks by the
end of the year,” said Sternberg,
noting that the network is presently
evaluating a range of new
distribution models.

The DirecTV deal from Chicago
follows another recent piece of
good news for Universal Sports.

The first emanated from International
Olympic Committee
headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland,
on June 7, when NBC
Sports Group retained the U.S.
media rights to four Olympics
from 2014-20.

“NBC is a shareholder, so it was
very important to us that they received
confi rmation of Olympic
rights for the next eight years.
That is a positive for us,” Sternberg

He said that the network
works closely with NBC Sports
Group on cross-promoting
various events, a relationship
whose ties extended to the 2010
Vancouver Olympics, where
Universal Sports gained access
to news coverage and athlete interviews,
a game plan that is likely
to be reprised in London.

Sternberg said he could not
speak to whether Universal
Sports would actually be involved
in event coverage from the 2012
games next summer.