Universal Sports Network, which offers exclusive year-round coverage of Olympic sports programming, made an announcement on Thursday that could help more U.S. ski fans watch their favorite winter athletes. Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable system operator in the country, will start carrying the Universal Sports channel later this summer as part of a new multi-year contract to bring its customers coverage of the Olympic qualifying FIS World Cup tour, including alpine, nordic, snowboarding, freeskiing and freestyle tours.
“Time Warner Cable customers will soon be able to enjoy the year-round coverage of championship sports programming found only on Universal Sports,” said Alexis Johnson, Time Warner’s Vice President of Content Acquisition. “We are delighted to be able to provide our Sports Pass subscribers with access to coverage of the Olympic sports they love on multiple platforms.”
For current Time Warner customers, Universal Sports will only be available to those who pay extra for the TWC Sports Pass. DirecTV will continue to carry Universal Sports’ programming, meaning World Cup races will now be available in some 40 million U.S. homes, including major markets in New York City and Los Angeles. Comcast, the largest U.S. cable provider, still has not regained Universal Sports since dropping the channel from its lineup in 2012.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association looks positively at the Time Warner deal, as the governing body seeks to boost its athletes’ exposure in the upcoming Olympic year.
“Maximizing exposure for U.S. Ski Team athletes is a major priority for the USSA and this agreement between Universal Sports Network and Time Warner further helps that initiative,” said USSA’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Jaquet in a press release. “We are encouraged that Time Warner Cable has seen the value in this and will continue to work with our partners at Universal Sports Network to continue to build out this very valuable platform.
“This announcement and development is about more access and distribution for Universal Sports,” Jaquet further explained in an email to FasterSkier. “So last week if you had Time Warner as your cable provider you couldn’t watch the channel. Now you can. That’s 8 million more people this week that can now get the channel that couldn’t last week. So good for the sport and what they cover already.”
Jaquet, who joined USSA last spring after leaving CBS as a marketing executive, was unsure of how Universal Sports’ cross-country and nordic specific coverage would change in the Sochi Olympic year.
“No major plans that I know of now to change the mix of sports and coverage, but in an Olympic year maybe more than normal,” he said. “Those decisions get made in the next four to eight weeks.”
USSA did not directly play a role in the deal, but Jaquet says winter sports fans likely influenced the decision by requesting access to the channel.
“We weren’t directly involved in the negotiations but these deals get done based on people calling their cable operators and demanding the channel get added,” he said. “We do know that a lot of that call volume came from NYC and LA, two of our bigger markets for fans and Time Warner’s Main coverage areas. So our fans certainly had a role.”
Universal Sports has been the home for season-long coverage of the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup, along with bringing other FIS events like the cross country Tour de Ski to America.
“We are thrilled that Time Warner Cable sees value in Universal Sports Network,” said Universal Sports President Scott Brown. “We look forward to serving Time Warner Cable’s customers with exciting, global sports coverage on multiple platforms.”