The Paralympic Movement is on the brink of gaining a large increase of exposure worldwide in the near future thanks to a handful of Paralympic Games broadcast deals announced in 2013.
These deals, highlighted by the major NBC announcement in the US, along with Channel 4 in Great Britain, EBU in European territories and a contingent of Canadian broadcast partners, are expected to have such a significant long-term impact on the Movement that that International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has placed them at number one in its Top 50 Moments of 2013.
After showing minimal coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee have partnered to acquire the US media rights to the next two Paralympic Games. The Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympics will receive an unprecedented 116 combined hours of coverage in the US.
'I think we were all very moved by London 2012, and by our experiences with Paralympians,' Zenkel said. 'I think what resonated so much about the Paralympics the last time around and in past Games is that the stories of these athletes are so inspirational, that we as storytellers wanted to be the ones to tell those stories in this country.'
NBC and NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will combine to air 50 hours of television coverage from Sochi 2014, which will showcase 650 athletes from 45 countries from 7-16 March.
In September 2016, NBC and NBCSN will show 66 hours of coverage from the Paralympic Games in Rio - an increase of 60.5 hours from the coverage of London 2012. The 2016 Games are set to be the biggest yet, with more than 4,300 athletes competing in 22 sports, and they aim to build on the success of London 2012, a Games broadcast to a global cumulated audience of 3.8 billion in 115 countries.
'I feel that having our events on TV and live online will expand our sport greatly,' said American world champion swimmer Courtney Jordan. '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.'
Zenkel said NBC will focus on the competition at its core but will share the athletes' back stories to bring the audience closer to the Paralympians as individuals.
'It's an event that inspires an audience around human potential,' Zenkel said. 'The Paralympics are so powerful because of the incredible stories, and the Paralympics are able to gather a massive audience of men and women across demographics because they're much more than a sports event.'
In addition to the comprehensive television plan on NBC and NBC Sports Network, which will include 10 consecutive days of coverage of the Games, the USOC will provide live online coverage of all competition events and Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
'NBC Olympics' commitment to airing the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games marks a significant turning point for the Paralympic Movement in the United States,' said USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun.
'Americans have always been interested in the inspiring stories of our Paralympians. With the Paralympic Games on television, Americans will be able to experience the thrill of sport, which is what the Paralympic Movement is about. The Paralympic Games are not about disability. The Paralympic Games are about athletes competing to be the best in the world.'
Following London 2012, Channel 4 took little time to express their interest in continuing their coverage of the Paralympic Games in Great Britain.
In February, Channel 4 secured an innovative two-Games bundle from the IPC, obtaining the television rights for both the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Paralympics after a highly competitive tender process.
Channel 4 will broadcast more than 45 hours from Sochi 2014 and 500 hours from Rio 2016, and in the lead-up to the latter the broadcaster will also cover major international para-sport events. In 2013, they already showcased July's IPC Athletics World Championships and August's IPC Swimming World Championships.
Channel 4's coverage of London 2012 broke UK viewing records for Paralympic sport, reaching 69 per cent of the population. The broadcaster has also committed to continuing their award-winning marketing campaigns and to serving as an International Ambassador for Paralympic Media who can offer a consultancy service to broadcasters of Paralympic sport in developing countries.
Also in February, EBU, Eurovision and the IPC announced a multi-service partnership covering the media rights on all platforms for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016. The EBU will exploit the media rights for all EBU territories, excluding Russia for Sochi 2014 and Great Britain for both Games.
Twenty-seven EBU members have already committed to showing the Rio 2016 Paralympics - an unprecedented number so far in advance of any Games.
In addition, Eurovision, operated by the EBU, will provide the IPC with extra services, such as production, distribution and onsite activities, to enhance the coverage of IPC Championships and Test Events, making the EBU a committed partner in furthering the Movement.
Finally, in November, with 100 days to go until Sochi 2014, the Canadian Paralympic Committee unveiled unprecedented media plans for the most comprehensive coverage ever offered in Canada for a Paralympic Games.
Through a pioneering new broadcast model, the CPC has secured the Canadian broadcast rights to Sochi 2014 and Rio 2014 and will lead broadcast consortium partners in creating coverage across five platforms: CBC/Radio-Canada, Sportsnet, Accessible Media Inc. and Yahoo Canada Sports.
More than 65 hours of broadcast and up to 350 hours of digital streaming will connect Canadian fans to the Sochi 2014 Paralympics next March.