Devout ski racing fans in America spent the past few years hunting for a cable broadcaster or satellite provider that carried Universal Sports Network to ensure they could watch coverage of the FIS Alpine World Cup tour. Universal Sports aired in nearly 65 million households nationwide, many of which have since been informed that the Olympic-themed channel is going off-air on Nov. 16.
Where does that leave fans of alpine ski racing in the U.S.?
For starters, the women’s World Cup races in Aspen as well as the men’s Birds of Prey races from Beaver Creek were already set to air on NBC and NBCSN, and those broadcasting plans remain intact. NBCSN will air the rescheduled Levi slalom at Aspen on Nov. 28 live beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET while NBC will air the regularly-scheduled Aspen slalom on Nov. 29 live starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Additionally, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has been working with NBC Sports over the last week to coordinate a domestic production of Friday’s GS (Nov. 27) which involves coordination of broadcast commentators, production facility, and broadcast/streaming distribution. The USSA is close to finalizing and expects to announce a broadcast and streaming package sometime this week.
The first men’s race from Beaver Creek, the Birds of Prey downhill, will air on NBCSN on Dec. 4 beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET with the super G to follow Dec. 5 also at 1:00 p.m. ET. Finally, Sunday’s GS for the men will air on NBC at 5:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 6.
According to Sports Business Journal which first announced the closing of Universal Sports, NBCUniversal will acquire broadcasting rights for the sports previously carried on the soon-to-be-defunct channel.
“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,” NBC Sports Group announced via an email to news outlets. “We will have more information regarding our plans when the transaction closes in November.”
While all of this may be confusing to viewers, the specific details for how NBCUniversal will handle its newly-acquired rights to all FIS Alpine World Cup racing and not just domestic events are yet to be announced.
The USSA has been working with its partners at NBC over the past weeks to encourage the media company to carry the content to which Universal Sports had rights on one of its many networks. Knowing the time sensitivity of the decision, NBC officials have been meeting and the USSA is optimistic of a positive outcome.
“Since its origins as the World Championship Sports Network in 2005, Universal Sports has been a strong partner of the USSA, carrying content from all of our sports. While the network will cease operations after Nov. 16, we are optimistic that new rights owner NBC will pick up increasing event coverage on both its broadcast and digital platforms,” said USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw in his latest quarterly update to the membership. “The USSA is committed to helping push for this expansion. Stay tuned for more developments and thanks to Universal Sports for a decade of great coverage.”
Read the update to this article including specific broadcast plans by NBC Sports here.