The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will continue its long-standing partnership with NBC, announcing that the International Ski Federation’s 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek will be carried by NBC Sports Group and Universal Sports Network. The new deal will see NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports combine for a most-ever 25+ hours of coverage, including live event programming for the first time in history. NBC Sports Live Extra, Universal Sports Network and the USSA Network on YouTube will also combine to provide live streaming coverage. The event is slated to return stateside from Feb. 2-15, 2015, with a record six hours slated for NBC and 8.5 hours on NBCSN as well as 13 for Universal Sports.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Michael Jaquet, USSA Chief Marketing Officer, about the deal and post-Olympic glow.
Jaquet on extending with NBC: The process from the start has been to upgrade what we were doing from an event and production standpoint because we have a big major media rights negotiation coming up. So we did some live windows, we collapsed our schedule and increased production quality. The next piece of the process was to go out and acquire more rights. That’s what we did with the World Championship Rights for ’15 and ’17, which we announced last December. Once we acquired those rights, I was able to go to NBC and say ‘Ok, here’s our deal and here’s why you guys need to do a much better deal than what we’ve had.’ So we really kicked off negotiations with NBC in January, and we have talked to everybody else about how much appetite there was for our property. We then really got laser-focused with NBC during the Games in Sochi, completed negotiations and have a handshake agreement. We are now working on some of the final stuff on contracts, but this World Championships announcement and its content and everything we are doing with that with NBC Sports and Universal Sports is basically the kickoff to the new deal.
On highlights of the deal: The World Championships are as important as the Olympics for some ski racing fans. Obviously, in America we are an Olympic-focused country, but they are definitely the next event you want to win as a skier, next to the Olympics. This is where stars are made. This is the first time they’ve been back to America since 1999. It is such as different situation now since the last time they were in America. We’ve got American stars competing on American soil. We have a great event host. So if we look at that whole landscape, we had to go big with the coverage. It has to be the biggest and best by far. So what sticks out going back to 2013, it was two hours on NBC, but now there will be six. There were zero hours on NBC Sports Network and zero hours on a fully-distributed cable network, now we’ve got nine hours. Universal Sports will now be featuring 15-20 hours by the time it is all said and done. So we have better distribution, hours as well as increases in being able to combine our star power and the power of the event with consistent start times. We think that is going to really build an audience.
On sponsors: We are almost sold out. The way the new deal works with NBC is that in that past, we owned all the inventory. Now we are a media rights and barter deal so we own half the inventory and NBC owns half. Our half is 90% sold out. NBC’s half will go fast. The deal is structured the way it is because it provides NBC with opportunity to work with my sponsors who want to buy incrementally.
On star power: As we came out of the Games, we nailed the circuit big time. A lot of that was because we won 17 of the 28 medals that Team USA won, we had all the shows with multiple athletes and that was a big success. Mikaela was one of the things that we kept telling people about but they got so hopped up on Lindsey, and know that we don’t discourage people from talking about Lindsey and we obviously didn’t know that she wasn’t going to make it back. Then, when Lindsey went down, people were scrambling. We didn’t want to put that pressure on Mikaela, we didn’t want her to have to deal with being the face of the Games, especially because her event wasn’t until the second to last day. We did a good job managing that and she came though, as did Ted, Julia and the rest of the team. Everything went pretty much according to plan. Some of the places we didn’t expect to medal, we did and some of the places we did expect to medal, we didn’t. But that’s how it always works out.