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Universal Sports cuts availability, moves to cable

Universal Sports cuts availability, moves to cable

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Jan. 3, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Universal Sports Network moved Jan. 1 to cable and satellite distribution from an over-the-air multicast, reducing its reach to a fraction of DirecTV Inc.'s 19.2 million customers.

The network, a partnership between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, LP., is known for its year-round coverage of Olympic sports and athletes. The channel was available via over-the-air broadcast, digital cable and satellite until Jan. 2, when it became available only to satellite and digital cable subscribers, a move that was announced Sept. 12, 2011.

DirecTV had in August 2011 become the first satellite provider to include the channel in a sports channel package, as a part of a deal that was announced in June 2011. The company is currently the only provider to carry Universal Sports.

The change came at the same time as NBC's rebranding of its Versus channel as NBC Sports Network. The acquisition of Versus came as a part of a NBC's $30 million merger with Comcast Corp. last year.

The new network is branding itself as a 24/7 sports programming provider and has immediate plans to focus on the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The NHL stands to benefit from the increased coverage, with the 10-year exclusive rights deal that was signed in 2011 guaranteeing 100 games annually on NBC or NBC Sports Network.

In addition to providing in-depth coverage of the Olympics, the network plans to carry 38 MLS regular-season games and to cover the Tour de France, the IndyCar Series and the Triple Crown, which in the U.S. includes the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

In lieu of Universal Sports on KSL-TV channel 5.2, KSL has partnered with Live Well Network, owned and operated by ABC. The network offers a variety of entertainment-based programs, including food, health, travel and outdoor adventure programming.

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Stephanie Grimes

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