Channel 4 has secured the rights to screen the Paralympic Games in a historic deal with the International Paralympic Committee for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games and Rio 2016 Summer Games.
The deal, believed to be worth about £7m, includes multi-platform broadcast rights within the UK and will see the broadcaster build on its acclaimed coverage of London 2012 which broke UK viewing records for Paralympic sport and reached 69 per cent of the population.
As part of the agreement Channel 4 will screen over 45 hours of coverage from next year’s Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, the most ever by a British broadcaster, plus comprehensive coverage of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Summer Games, screening a minimum of 200 hours.
Channel 4 beat off strong competition from the BBC, the former Paralympic rights holders, for the 2014 and 2016 events, and will step up its coverage of para-sport outside of the Games.
In the lead-up to Rio 2016, the broadcaster will also show coverage of major international para-sport events, including the IPC Athletics World Championships to be held in Lyon this July and August’s IPC Swimming World Championships, which will take place in Montreal.
For the Rio 2016 Games itself, Channel 4 is planning round the clock coverage of the Games, similar to its London 2012 offering, across Channel 4 and More4.
This includes live coverage, highlights and the return of the highly acclaimed daily review show The Last Leg, which was a huge hit with viewers over the summer.
Channel 4 will also build on the three live streams of coverage it offered for London 2012 on digital platforms and, in total, will broadcast over 500 hours of coverage from Rio.
Audiences during the London 2012 Paralympics peaked at 4.2 million for Oscar Pistorius’s gold medal in the T44 400m and retained a regular Channel 4 peak-time audience of more than two million.
Sir Philip Craven, IPC President, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with Channel 4 following its stunning success in covering the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“With London 2012 Channel 4 created a blueprint for how a commercial broadcaster can raise the profile of Paralympic sport and its athletes to new levels.
“They reached record audiences, in particular young people, identified and developed some fantastic new presenting talent and played a significant role in delivering seismic shifts in attitudes and perceptions towards people with an impairment in the UK.
“They have promised to build on this fantastic work over the next four years and we look forward to working with them as they help contribute to the IPC’s vision of enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence to inspire and excite the world.
“This is the first time the IPC has agreed a two Games deal with a TV station and I would like to thank Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 for their support and co-operation.
“To sign up such a high quality broadcaster so soon after the conclusion of the Games underlines the growth of the Paralympic Movement and the significant impact London 2012 had.”
In the lead up to the 2012 Games, Channel 4 identified and trained 10 new presenters and reporters with disabilities who played major roles across the coverage.
The broadcaster expects that a number of that team will again be part of a presenting line-up that for Sochi and Rio that will also feature top sports presenters and journalists.
One of the channel’s new reporters will also be developed to become a new dedicated Paralympic Correspondent on Channel 4 News.
David Abraham, Channel 4’s Chief Executive said: “The London 2012 Paralympic Games was a landmark moment in the history of broadcasting Paralympic sport.
“Not only did Channel 4’s coverage reach record audiences but, more importantly, it had a meaningful and positive impact on UK attitudes to disability and disability sport in general.
“I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to build on this achievement over the next four years and to work alongside the IPC to deliver both the Winter Games from Sochi in 2014 and the Summer Games from Rio in 2016.”
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of the British Paralympic Association, said: “Whilst this is clearly huge news for the Paralympic Movement internationally, as it shows other broadcasters around the world that there is a real market for Paralympic sport, for us in the UK it demonstrates that 2012 really was a ground breaking year.
“The Paralympic Movement in our country has never been stronger and we’ve always said we wanted 2012 to be a launch pad to developing it further.
“So to have our broadcaster in place so far ahead of the next two Paralympic Games and with a commitment to cover events in the build up to them is a fantastic place to be.
“Our thanks go to the IPC for working hard on securing this and our congratulations to Channel 4 for winning the rights against stiff competition.
“Their dedication and passion for the Paralympics is clear for all to see and we look forward to working with them over the next four years to carry on the job that we have started so successfully in London 2012.”
As part of the new deal, Channel 4 will offer more coverage of a Winter Paralympic Games than ever before, with more than 45 hours of action to be shown on throughouy the 10-day event, a significant increase on the BBC’s coverage of past Games.
Dimitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of Sochi 2014 said: “The award of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games UK television rights to Channel 4 is a further boost to our efforts to showcase the most innovative Winter Paralympic Games in history.
“The Paralympic Games are already acting as a catalyst for changing attitudes in Sochi, in Russia and across the rest of the globe helping to create a barrier free environment.
“Channel 4’s pioneering Paralympic coverage, as shown during London 2012, is a further means to help achieve this goal.”
Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of Rio 2016, said: “Channel 4’s coverage of London 2012 was definitely a key factor in the unprecedented success of last year’s Paralympic Games.
“Getting them on board for 2016 gives us the assurance we will continue to learn from London and that we are on the right track to take the Games to a new level.
“By securing this partnership we will also be able to showcase Rio 2016 and Brazil to a wide audience that is now more informed about and eager for Paralympic sport, as well as willing to tune in again for hours and hours of broadcast in the lead up to and during our Games.
“We count on Channel 4 to pass their learnings on to our local partners in Brazil and to help us achieve our goal of contributing to the growth of the Paralympic Movement, both nationally and globally.”
In addition to building on its acclaimed coverage of London 2012, Channel 4 has also committed to creating a major theatrical documentary, supported by Film 4 Productions, the continuation of its award-winning marketing campaigns over the next four years; and the employment of an International Ambassador for Paralympic Media, who can offer a consultancy service to broadcasters of Paralympic Sport in developing countries.