UK’s Channel 4 Wins Rights to London Paralympics

UK commercial broadcaster Channel 4 has won the rights to televise the 2012 London Paralympics, breaking the dominance of the BBC in covering the Games. Estimated at £10 million, the deal marks a major return to sport for C4, which has a public service remit and was noted in the 1980s and ’90s for its coverage of cricket, Italian football, and American football.

C4 has committed to broadcast in excess of 150 hours of the Games, with 130 of those on its main terrestrial service (Channel 4). The broadcaster says that Paralympic sports have not had this amount of airtime before; it will include a peak-time programme as well as coverage on mobile, Internet, and other multimedia platforms.

There will be an extensive buildup to the Games, which will take place Aug. 29-Sept. 9, 2012. As a prelude to the Paralympics, C4 will be rebranded to reflect the different sports involved. The broadcaster says it will “work with the world’s best production companies to build on its reputation for the most innovative sports coverage.” These are likely to include IMG Media and Sunset+Vine, which were mentioned in C4’s tender submission and have a history with the channel.

Disability sports will feature in C4’s schedules during the two years leading up to the Paralympics. Sebastian Coe, chairman of LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games), says, “We are absolutely delighted to appoint Channel 4 as our broadcast partner in the UK. C4 shares our vision for the Paralympic Games, has a very strong appeal to young people, and will play a hugely important role in increasing public engagement and involvement in Paralympic sport in this country.”

Says C4 Director of Television and Content Kevin Lygo, “C4 has done more than any other broadcaster to bring disability into the mainstream, and we have a great track record of broadcast innovation with sports like Test cricket. We are genuinely thrilled to be given this opportunity to work with LOCOG to bring Paralympic sport into full public focus before, during, and beyond the 2012 Games and to deliver a lasting legacy, including altering public attitudes to disability and disability sport.”

The BBC had broadcast the Paralympics since 1980 and holds the live rights to the Summer Olympics up to and including the 2012 Games. The Olympics are on the list of protected events known as the Crown Jewels, which are guaranteed coverage on free-to-air channels, but there is no assurance that it will be on the BBC for the 2016 event; C4 and ITV are rumoured to be in the running to bid for the rights.