EXCLUSIVE: NBC will televise America’s Cup World Series final

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Sailing returns to network TV Sunday for the first time in 20 years.

NBC will air the America’s Cup World Series race live, starting at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

“Just one year ago ESPN said they couldn’t sell sailing television,” said Iain Murray, America’s Cup regatta director and CEO of Race Management. “Now sailing television is going to a much broader audience than ever before.”

Murray’s remarks came today at Sail America’s 2012 Industry Conference in Newport as he outlined the push to grow the America’s Cup audience reach globally. Already the reach “has changed dramatically,” Murray said.

“What this conference is all about — taking the 1.5 million people you’re reaching and growing that into 3 million — essentially we’re trying to do the same thing,” Murray said.

There had been resistance to carry the Cup initially because, as TV people would say, “it’s just triangles on a blue screen,” said Bob Billingham, San Francisco event infrastructure manager.

The 34th America’s Cup, which will be held in San Francisco Bay in 2013, will make for some “cool television” with 72-foot wing-sail catamarans, Murray said.

Director of digital technology Stan Honey — co-founder of Sportvision Inc. and the man who digitally enhanced the hockey puck to make it blue and added the yellow first-down line into football broadcasts — is combining video footage taken from helicopters and juxtaposing it onto the race to make it more accessible to non-sailors.

Me-TV, the digital tier station of NBC 10 in the Newport area, will show live racing Thursday through Saturday before NBC takes over on Sunday.

Comcast Sports in California also will have live racing each day, as well as a full replay at 9 p.m. PDT.

Globally, the Emmy Award-winning coverage is available on more than 35 networks, including Mediaset in Italy, Canal+ in France, SkySports in the UK, Supersport in South Africa, Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, OSN across the Middle-East, Fox Sports in Australia and TVNZ in New Zealand.

Coverage is also available live and on-demand worldwide on YouTube.com/AmericasCup, subject to territorial broadcast agreements. In the United States, the broadcast agreement with NBC means there will be no live coverage on Sunday July 1 on YouTube. Replays, highlights and on-demand are unaffected, however, and will be available on YouTube in the United States throughout all four days of the AC World Series in Newport.

Eight crews from six countries are competing in the 2011-12 AC World Series, including: Artemis Racing (Sweden), skipper Terry Hutchinson; Emirates Team New Zealand (New Zealand), skipper Dean Barker; Energy Team (France), helmsman Loïck Peyron; Luna Rossa Challenge (Italy), with two boats, helmsmen Chris Draper and Paul Campbell-James; Oracle Team USA (USA) with two boats, skippers James Spithill and Russell Coutts; and Team Korea (Korea) with skipper Nathan Outteridge.

Read a full report about Sail America’s 2012 Industry Conference in an upcoming edition of Soundings Trade Only.

Reagan Haynes

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