NBC Sports Group Sets Sail for America’s Cup with New Rights Deal

NBC Sports Group landed yet another key piece in its continued push to acquire more rights to live sports, signing a deal to carry the 34th America’s Cup from San Francisco on both NBC and the NBC Sports Network in 2013.

The first two days of racing Sept. 7-8 will air on NBC, with the remaining races airing on NBC Sports Network. NBC’s coverage of the opening two days will mark the marquee yacht competition’s first appearance on network television since 1993, when ABC broadcast the opening race from San Diego. All others have been carried live on cable since 1983 (the first time an American yacht club failed to win the Cup in 132 years).

NBC Sports Group also acquired the rights to the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Series, which determines the challenger for the America’s Cup Finals. NBC will also televise the final day of racing from three stops on the America’s Cup World Series this summer. NBC Sports Group is not paying a rights fee; rather, America’s Cup officials will acquire airtime and offer commercial time first to their own sponsors.

Production at Sea
Under terms of the agreement, the America’s Cup Executive Authority will produce the coverage, not NBC Sports Group, according to the Associated Press.

As one of the most logistically challenging events in all of sports television, the America’s Cup has long been a breeding ground for technological innovation in sports production. This tradition will continue in 2013. Event organizers have made a significant investment in the production of next-generation broadcast technologies, anchored by onboard agile HD cameras and 14 microphones on each America’s Cup boat.

The production team will also use Sportvision’s LiveLine technology, a state-of-the-art helicpter-based augmented-reality technology that will not only show viewers real-time race information but also be used by race umpires to enforce the rules. The LiveLine creates embedded graphical technical aids for viewers, such as ahead-behind lines, so audiences can clearly see who is leading the race. The umpires will use LiveLine to settle protests between boats at key turns, which are often hotly contested in these competitive races.

Synergy at Work
NBC Sports Group has illustrated a synergistic philosophy ever since it was formed last year following Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniveral, and this will be in full force for the America’s Cup. In addition to the races’ being carried on NBC and NBC Sports Net, the group’s San Francisco RSN, Comcast SportsNet California, will provide additional local coverage surrounding America’s Cup Finals.

“This is a great example of how the unique assets of the NBC Sports Group — broadcast, cable, and regional — can work together to provide comprehensive coverage of a prestigious event,” says Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “Viewers are in for a treat as the defense of the Cup by Team USA/ORACLE Racing takes place in the U.S. for the first time in 18 years.”

Filling the NBC Sports Net Slate
The America’s Cup rights deal is the latest addition in NBC Sports Group’s quickly growing portfolio of rights outside of America’s big-four sports. In an effort to obtain live content for the recently rebranded NBC Sports Network, the Group has gone on an onslaught of second-tier–rights acquisitions in the past 12 months, signing new deal or renewing deals for the NHL, Major League Soccer, horseracing (Breeders Cup, Kentucky Derby prep races, Summer at Saratoga), Red Bull Series action sports, and a variety of college sports, including football, hockey, and a five-year agreement with the Colonial Athletic Conference. And, of course, the 2012 Olympic Games from London will provide the cable network with hundreds of hours of programming.

Beyond the television presentation, the partnership between the NBC Sports Group and the America’s Cup Event Authority includes marketing, promotion, and distribution of the 34th America’s Cup events over the next two years.

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