ABC, Skating Union Sign 5-Year Deal
NEW YORK (AP) _ ABC, ESPN and Lifetime reached a five-year contract Thursday with the International Skating Union to televise major figure and speed skating events run by the sports’ governing body.
The deal, which includes all ISU Olympic-eligible figure skating events such as the world championships and Grand Prix competitions, begins next fall. A total of 60 hours of original programming will be presented per year on the three networks, with 11 figure skating events, five speed skating and four short track speed skating.
``We are excited to extend our partnership with the ISU through 2004,″ said Brian McAndrews, executive vice president and general manager for ABC Sports, which already owns the rights to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. ``The ISU package ... will ensure that ABC Sports will be the home of all of figure skating’s premier championship events well into the next century.″
The broadcasts will feature a combination of live, same-day turnaround and post-produced events, depending on where the events originate.
``Whenever we can do events live, we will,″ said Lydia Stephans, vice president of programming at ABC Sports. ``Because of the location and time zone, we may have to do same day or one-week delay.″
Lifetime’s biggest involvement in live sports has been with the WNBA. Although the number of hours of programming Lifetime will get from the deal is uncertain, it still is a coup for the cable network.
``We are extremely pleased to add ice skating’s most prestigious events to our ever-growing women’s sports portfolio,″ said Doug McCormick, president and CEO of Lifetime Television. ``This new dimension to our sports offerings underscores our commitment to highlighting the top women athletes in the world.″
The figure skating portion of the contract does not cover open competitions involving professionals that have been ISU-sanctioned.
Fox’s current contract with the ISU to telecast the Grand Prix events runs out after this season, which begins next month.