NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - After a decade of declining ratings, figure skating is switching to NBC from ABC Sports/ESPN.
NBC Sports on Monday announced a three-year revenue-sharing agreement with U.S. Figure Skating Assn., which will put the national championships on its primetime schedule in January.
The deal, running through the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, gives the governing body the revenue from its key sponsor, State Farm, before sharing the remainder with NBC Sports. NBC also gets broadband and high-definition rights.
“This is really a natural fit for us. Figure skating is the most popular sport in the Winter Olympics,” NBC Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol said.
U.S. Figure Skating had been with ABC Sports/ESPN for 43 years, but the past nine or 10 have been marked with steep ratings declines. ESPN/ABC declined to renew the contract.
NBC will get 10 hours of programming a year, starting with a live two-hour block on Sunday, October 28, from the Skate America event in Reading, Pa. It will continue with seven hours of live coverage from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on the weekend of January 26-27. That will include men’s and women’s singles plus pairs and ice dancing. Another hour will be the Exhibition of Champions.
Three of the hours will be in primetime on NBC on Saturday night, January 26, as part of a long block from the event that day. U.S. Figure Skating changed the format of the event, which Ebersol said made it much more attractive for NBC Sports.
He said it would take some time to determine who would be on air, but he mentioned as possibilities Dick Button, Scott Hamilton and Tom Hammond.