Channel 4 has won the exclusive rights to broadcast the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the UK.
The broadcaster will offer more than 150 hours of coverage during the 12 days of the Games – the first time there has been “blanket” coverage of the Paralympics on UK television.
This will include more than 130 hours on Channel 4, with supplementary coverage on its More 4 channel.
The announcement by the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) lays to rest fears that the rights could have been awarded to a subscription TV channel or an internet-only broadcaster.
Channel 4 has promised “innovative” coverage on TV, online and on mobile phones, along with its largest-ever marketing campaign to promote the Games in the run-up to the competition, and coverage of the Paralympic torch relay.
Channel 4 will also cover key disability sports and sporting events in the run-up to the Games, and broadcast two peak-time 10-part documentaries in 2011 and 2012, aimed at “building the stories of the athletes” and increasing public understanding of and enthusiasm for Paralympic sport.
Lord Coe, chair of LOCOG, said: “Channel 4 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.”
He said LOCOG was confident that the “quality and depth” of coverage before and during the Games would inspire disabled people to take up sport and help change public attitudes towards disability.
And he said the commercial value of the deal had “raised the bar financially” for the Paralympic movement, although Channel 4 would not reveal how much it had paid.
Lord Burns, Channel 4’s chairman designate, said the Paralympics would be “the main event, not a sideshow to the Olympics” for Channel 4, while the extensive coverage would “connect the Games with the widest possible cross-section of British viewers”.
He added: “The Games will define our year in 2012 and take over Channel 4 for their duration.”
ParalympicsGB congratulated Channel 4 and said it would “do its utmost to work with LOCOG and Channel 4 to make the Games-time coverage a success”, although it was “saddened” by the loss of the BBC, which it has worked with on televised Paralympic sport for more than 20 years.
ParalympicsGB said the BBC had shared its view that the Paralympics should be viewed as an “elite sporting competition” rather than a niche disability event.
And it said it was vital to use the unique opportunity of a home Games to inspire a “seismic shift” in attitudes to Paralympic sport.
LOCOG will begin tendering for the international broadcast rights to the Games later this year.
11 January 2010