Top 13 of 2013: U.S. broadcast plan for Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 announced

By Caryn Maconi | Dec. 28, 2013, 10 a.m. (ET)
Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic GamesFollowing 5.5 hours of coverage for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, NBC and NBCSN will air an unprecendented 116 hours of coverage for the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, while the U.S. Olympic Committee will live stream both Games.

By the numbers

149 hours of live
streaming for Sochi 2014

77 athletes expected on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team

66 hours of television
coverage for Rio 2016

50 hours of television
coverage for Sochi 2014

Six sponsors (BMW, BP, Citi, Liberty Mutual, Procter & Gamble and The Hartford) signed to support broadcast and streaming for Sochi

5.5 hours of television coverage for London 2012

Two channels
set to broadcast
Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016
in the United States

One website
set to stream all the
action live from
Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016

Clear your calendar.

You’ll be staying home March 7-16 to watch the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

On Sept. 24, 2013, the Paralympic Movement took a significant step forward when the International Paralympic Committee announced that NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee have partnered to provide an unprecedented 116 hours of television coverage for the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will receive 3.5 hours of coverage on NBC and an additional 46.5 hours on NBC Sports Network, a significant step up from the London 2012 Paralympic Games’ 5.5 total hours of coverage. Television coverage will be provided daily March 7-16.

All events will also be streamed live from Russia at

USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird was instrumental in working with NBC and six sponsors―BMW, BP, Citi, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Proctor & Gamble and The Hartford― to implement the historic broadcast and live stream.

Every day and night, the stories of athletic triumph at the Games will unfold in living rooms and offices across the country.

Baird said she has complete faith in NBC, which has held the U.S. broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games since 2002, to provide expert-level competition coverage of the Games and tell the stories of Paralympic athletes in an admirable way.

“There is a tremendous learning curve that comes with being able to do a broadcast the magnitude of the Olympic Games,” Baird said. “There are not only different sports, but also logistical challenges, different time zones, different countries. Each Games produces different challenges and opportunities depending on the geography. So NBC has this huge historical learning with the Olympic Games, and that is tremendously advantageous when it comes to being able to approach something of this magnitude, being able to bring the best of the best to American audiences back home.”

In addition to event coverage, NBC will air promotional campaigns featuring Paralympic athletes during the Olympic Winter Games in order to raise awareness of the Paralympic broadcast and stoke the excitement of Team USA fans. The Closing Ceremony for the Olympic Winter Games is set for Feb. 23, just 12 days before the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympic Winter Games.

“This is a crew that knows how to build anticipation in the minds of Americans for the Games and to capture the best moments,” Baird said. “I can’t tell you what a remarkable job they’ve done. And a lot of that is because of these craftsmen – which is what they are – creating something that’s bigger than the sport.”

It would be easy for an outlet with so much experience to rely on tried and true practices to deliver a satisfactory broadcast. But NBC, Baird said, is not afraid to push the boundaries with new digital technologies to give Americans more exposure to the Games than ever before.

“The broadcasters have an ability to do storytelling and to have access where and when you need it,” Baird said. “These aren’t things you just learn overnight. That’s why NBC continues to break new records with every broadcast. They take advantage of that learning and the new technologies of the Internet to make the Games that much more exciting 24/7.”

The broadcast is coming at a fitting time, as Baird said Americans are learning about and supporting the Paralympic Movement  today more than ever before.

“Americans are interested because they regard Paralympic athletes as elite athletes and the competition as incredibly exciting and competitive,” Baird said. “And we all know also because it’s inspiring. Americans want to watch it, and our sponsors are equally as interested in making sure America knows that they support our Paralympic as well as our Olympic teams.”

Baird also gave credit to the six other USOC partners that are supporting the broadcast and live stream. Funding from BMW, BP, Citi, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Proctor & Gamble and The Hartford is essential to delivering the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games to American households.  

“The USOC is not government funded, so we need our sponsors to support our team,” Baird said. “It’s not free. So in a sense, the broadcast doesn’t happen without them. Our sponsors are seeing that it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s also great competition.”

Live streaming of every event at will complement the broadcast. This element of the coverage, Baird said, is important for viewers that are looking for more specific, in-depth, and/or immediate coverage, especially the families and friends of the athletes that are competing.

“We don’t want Americans to miss a moment of the competition,” Baird said. “That’s the magic of multiple screens. TV is still an incredibly superior experience from a viewing standpoint, but also you can have your screen on during the day to keep up with events and scores.”

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will feature an estimated 77 Team USA athletes in of alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sled hockey, wheelchair curling and snowboard cross, which is making its Games debut in Sochi.

One of the athletes hoping to compete is alpine skier Andrew Kurka, who was a champion wrestler before injuring his spinal cord in an ATV accident at 13.

“This is super exciting,” he said. “Honestly, exposure for our sport has been something that I have been working towards. I feel that having our events on TV and live online will expand our sport greatly. Once people get a chance to see it on TV, they’ll be curious and they’ll watch. People with disabilities around the country and the world will know they can be athletes. It will change lives.”

An estimated 700 athletes with Paralympic-eligible impairments from more than 45 countries will compete at the Games, making it the largest Paralympic Winter Games ever.   

At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Team USA was represented by 50 athletes who won a combined 13 medals (four gold, five silver and four bronze medals), finishing fifth overall in the medal count.

Two of the bronze medals were earned by Danelle Umstead, a visually impaired skier who is guided by her husband Rob.

"This is so exciting,” she said. “Thank you NBC and the U.S. Olympic Committee for bringing what we do into the homes of Americans. All Paralympians are elite athletes and we work hard to represent our country for the games. Now everyone will have a chance to see how incredible Paralympic sport is. Go Team USA. My sight is on Sochi."

The groundbreaking coverage will continue beyond Sochi.

In Sept. 2016, NBC and NBCSN will show 66 hours of coverage from the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an increase of 60.5 hours from the coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

"The fact NBC is dedicating this much time to showcase the Paralympics shows how ready the USA is to meet some of the best athletes in the world and hear their incredible stories of inspiration, bringing to light the human potential in everyone,” said sprinter David Prince, who won a bronze medal in London. “It's exciting to think about the future in U.S. athletics."

The 2016 Games are set to be the biggest yet with more than 4,300 athletes competing in 22 sports, and aim to build on the success of London 2012 which were broadcast to a global cumulated audience of 3.8 billion in 115 countries.