NBC boosts sports stable

Acquires World Champion Sports Network

NBC Sports is taking a further step into Olympic sports with the acquisition of World Championship Sports Network, a small television network and online site that televises year-round competitions.

The 3-year-old Los Angeles-based company, which is owned by InterMedia Partners, will be known as Universal Sports. NBC Universal has made an unspecified investment in the company and will jointly control it with InterMedia Partners. Universal Sports will continue to be run by its management team, Claude Ruibal and Carlos Silva.

WCSN has rights deals with most but not all Olympic sports, including track and field, gymnastics, swimming, World Cup skiing, beach volleyball and curling. It doesn't have the rights to World Cup soccer, figure skating or tennis, however.

"We have seen an interest and an appetite for coverage of Olympic sports outside of the period of the Olympics, and the combination of NBC and WCSN is a formidable one," NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel said.

The partnership kicks off Thursday and Friday with coverage of early-round Olympics trials in gymnastics and diving. That will continue and expand, Zenkel and Ruibal said. Even after the Beijing Olympics, the coverage will continue to tell the stories of the athletes and the sports and also cover the run-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"The whole vision of this is that we can give the fans 24/7 access to these sports," Silva said.

The TV channel has about 2 million subscribers, with coverage in such smaller markets as Buffalo, N.Y., and Detroit. Ruibal said he hopes the association with NBC Universal will help the channel to build distribution, though it likely won't have a place in the extensive coverage NBC Universal is planning for the Summer Games in Beijing.