February 8 - Channel 4 has today secured the television rights for both the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympics, less than a year after the broadcaster recorded some of the highest viewing figures in its history when it covered London 2012.
In a unique two-Games bundle from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the deal includes multi-platform broadcast rights within the United Kingdom, allowing the firm to build on its acclaimed coverage of London 2012, which also broke UK viewing records for Paralympic sport and reached 69 per cent of the population.
"The London 2012 Paralympic Games was a landmark moment in the history of broadcasting Paralympic sport," David Abraham, Channel 4's chief executive, said.
"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."
The agreement will see Channel 4 screen more than 45 hours of coverage from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games – the most ever by a British broadcaster.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and chief executive of Sochi 2014, welcomed the announcement.
"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," he said.
"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."
Meanwhile, in the run-up to Rio 2016, Channel 4 show coverage of major international Parasport events, including the IPC Athletics World Championships from Lyon in July and the IPC Swimming World Championships, which will take place in Montreal in August.
During the Summer Paralympics the broadcaster is planning round the clock coverage of the Games with a commitment to screening a minimum of 200 broadcast hours, including live coverage, highlights and the return of The Last Leg, which was a huge hit with viewers over the summer.
In addition, it will build on the three live streams it offered on digital platforms for London 2012 and, in total, will broadcast over 500 hours of coverage from Rio.
"Channel 4's coverage of London 2012 was definitely a key factor in the unprecedented success of last year's Paralympic Games," Carlos Nuzman, President of Rio 2016, said.
"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."
Channel 4 says it expects to use a number of the presenters and reporters it used for London 2012 as part of the presenting line-up for Sochi and Rio, with one of its new reporters being developed to become a dedicated Paralympic correspondent on Channel 4 News.
"We are delighted to extend our partnership with Channel 4 following its stunning success in covering the London 2012 Paralympic Games," IPC President, Sir Philip Craven, said.
"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 cooperation.
"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."
The IPC is set to announce further broadcasters for the 2014 and 2016 Paralympics in the near future.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
November 2012: Paralympics was Channel 4's "finest hour" claims first chief executive
October 2012: Channel 4 chief lines up bid for Rio 2016 Paralympics