Looking to take the service to the next level, Universal Sports has named David Sternberg CEO and Perkins Miller COO.
Sternberg joins the joint venture of Leo Hindery's InterMedia Partners and NBC from Fox Cable Networks, where he spent some seven years as executive vice president and COO of the Emerging Networks group, with oversight of Fox Soccer Channel, Fuel TV and Fox Sports en Español.
Miller was most recently senior vice president, Digital Media, NBC Sports and Olympics and general manager for Universal Sports Network, where he oversaw all digital media initiatives for NBC Sports and NBC Olympics as well as NBC's interests in Universal Sports. The network offers up a comprehensive slate of Olympic-style sports and had a presence at the Vancouver Games through news and highlights coverage.
In the new organizational set-up, Claude Ruibal, who co-founded predecessor company World Championship Sports Network and was serving as Universal Sports CEO and chairman, will retain the latter role. Carlos Silva, who had been president and COO, will remain with the company as president of Universal Sports Properties, heading its emerging fitness and training business. David Michaels will continue to serve as executive producer of Universal Sports.
Since officially establishing the joint venture in June 2008, Universal Sports's distribution has grown from 1.5 million to being available today in more than 57 million TV households, including all of the top 10 markets, save for Boston. Sternberg will work out of the network's Westlake, Calif. Offices, with sales and digital operations remaining on the East Coast. Miller will be based in New York and will continue to lead NBC's Olympic digital effort for the 2012 London Games.
Following his "three-month retirement," Sternberg said he's "ready to roll up his sleeves and help Universal Sports realize its potential."
He said coverage of the sports on the network and UniversalSports.com is "tremendously important to an increasing number of people in the U.S. and that this passionate following presents a favorable growth profile," especially with the momentum created by Vancouver Olympics.
Already holding a bevy of rights, including world and championship events in swimming, cycling, running, gymnastics and skiing that total over 3,600 hours annually, distribution will be a top priority for Sternberg, despite the channel's rapid carriage ascension.
"The network is available to 57 million homes, so there are another 50 million to 60 million not spoken for," said Sternberg. "Satellite will be a big part of that and there are conversations with cable." He noted that Universal Sports is also looking for gains in advanced media, whether online, through video-on-demand, or even pay-per-view for premium content.
Miller said that Universal Sports is home to events featuring the likes of bicycling legend Lance Armstrong and Olympic gold medalists Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White. Asked if Universal Sports would present events from the Summer Olympics in 2012, Miller sidestepped the query, saying only that there is "a long time to go and a lot of work to do in connecting fans to Michael Phelps and [2008 Olympic individual all-around gold medalist] Nastia Luiken in the run up to London."
Miller said that InterMedia and NBC's hiring of Sternberg underscores how highly the partners value this asset, as "his cable experience and expertise is what's needed to really build" Universal Sports.
Both also pointed to gains on the advertising side coming out of Vancouver, with such sponsors as Subway and Coca-Cola. NBC's ad sales team is incorporating Universal Sports in its upfront pitches to marketers looking to extend their association year-round with Olympic-style sports, not just during the Games themselves or the Olympic Trials.
Although Miller will still be engaged on the digital side with the London Games, NBC has revamped its leadership here as well. Kevin Monaghan, currently senior vice president, business development for NBC Sports has added the title of managing director of NBC Sports Digital Media, with oversight for all digital media initiatives for NBC Sports including NBCSports.com, ProFootballTalk.com and Rotoworld.com. At the same time, Rick Cordella, general manager of NBC Sports Digital has been elevated to vice president/general manager, running the day-to-day operations and reporting to Monaghan.
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