ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Organizers of Alaska's famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have renewed a deal with the Sportsman Channel, continuing a national television presence for the nearly 1,000-mile trek across rugged and sometimes unforgiving terrain.
With the agreement announced Wednesday, the network maintains its status as the official network of the race from Anchorage to the old gold rush town of Nome on Alaska's wind-scoured western coast. The original partnership began weeks before this year's race took place in March, culminating with musher Dallas Seavey running a blistering pace to rally from third place and win his second Iditarod in a record-breaking finish.
"We couldn't be happier about this event," Sportsman Channel spokesman Tom Caraccioli said. "We see this as an iconic American, Alaskan celebration, and it's something that people know about. But we want people to really be able to see this and embrace it for the true rugged event that it is."
As with the 2014 Iditarod, the network won't document the race live in 2015. Hours of programming will air later, detailing stories of mushers, dogs, race history, the wilderness trail and the intense competition that marks each race.
Musher standings will be updated on the network's website during the race. The Iditarod Trail Committee also provides video footage along the trail for fans who subscribe to its "Iditarod Insider" online service.
Caraccioli and race executive director Stan Hooley declined to discuss terms of the deal.
Hooley said the partnership translates into a substantial investment to augment escalating logistical and other expenses in staging the Iditarod. The race also relies on other moneymakers such as fundraisers and sponsorships. Perhaps someday some of the new revenues can go toward the purse, which has dwindled in recent years as organizers struggle with race sponsors and finances after a downturn in the economy.
But for now, Hooley expects the purse for the first 30 mushers to remain in the $650,000 range, with the cash awarded on a downward sliding scale. All other mushers who finish the race receive $1,049.
The winner's take since 2010 has been $50,400 and a new truck — compared with the more than $72,000 won by 2005 champion, Norwegian musher Robert Sorlie.
"We're certainly not content with where we are," Hooley said. "Our desire is to be more successful in our fundraising efforts to increase the purse when it's prudent or makes financial sense."
Hooley said race organizers are thrilled with the Sportsman Channel partnership as a platform for a wider coverage.
"We're very happy to have a national television partner that will do a great job telling the Iditarod story to a national audience," he said.
For next year's Iditarod, the network and its affiliated magazines and websites will promote the race before its March 7 ceremonial start in Anchorage. The competitive part of the race for mushers and their dog teams will begin the following day 50 miles to the north in Willow. It takes the winner about 10 days to cross the finish line in Nome.
Before joining up with the Sportsman's Channel, the Iditarod had not had a network deal since 2009.
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