Monday, August 1, 2011

Versus to become NBC Sports Network in January 2012

First, it was a little known Outdoor Life Network.

Then it was shortened to just OLN.

September 25, 2006 - Comcast re-launched it as VERSUS.

January 28, 2011 - Comcast completed a $30 billion transaction with General Electric to create a joint venture company called NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

February 2, 2011 - Comcast acquires 51% majority ownership of NBCUniversal and integrates their sports networks into the newly-formed NBC Sports Group.

April 19, 2011 - The National Hockey League had their American national television contract extended for 10 years with NBC and VERSUS worth $2 billion.

And now, we arrive at TODAY...

Comcast just announced that VERSUS will be re-branded as the NBC Sports Network on January 2, 2012.

By no coincidence, it is on the day of the 2012 Winter Classic.

The NHL will soon make it 100% official with the New York Rangers visiting the Philadelphia Flyers in an outdoor game to be played at Citizens Bank Park.

In addition to the network name change, the NBC Sports Group will implement a redesigned NBC Sports logo, including the one above for the cable channel.

The idea behind the upcoming second re-launch in VERSUS' history is for Comcast and the NBC Sports Group to more uniformly bring the branding of all its sports networks together. This would be the NBC broadcast television network, two cable television networks, the 11 Comcast SportsNet regional sports networks as well as the digital platform.

"This effort is a major step towards a complete strategic alignment of all our platforms and businesses," NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said. "This is more than just a name change for VERSUS. It's a complete repositioning of the brand to provide value for marketers, consumers as well as all our affiliates and distributors. We want anyone who comes into contact with any of our assets to immediately connect with the NBC Sports brand promise."

How does this effect the NHL and its broadcast media side of this sports league's business? Absolutely plenty.

VERSUS has seen steady growth in viewership and programming, but the new brand name is expected to heighten its profile further and even better compete with sports television powerhouse ESPN. When the NHL extended its television contract agreement with Comcast, the league powers that be had confidence in solidifying its presence on NBC and VERSUS. The NBC brand is more recognizable and will make its sports cable network available to even more viewers.

At the same time, cross-promotion will be a big key for the NHL as advertising can be done during NBC's National Football League broadcasts that include Sunday Night Football games, playoff contests and Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th. Even promos can air on Golf Channel, Comcast SportsNet regional cable networks and other Comcast-owned cable TV networks. More eyes seeing the NHL promos means more awareness of NBC's hockey coverage. In turn, more viewers can tune in to hockey games on NBC and NBC Sports Network as early as the 2011-2012 season.

And if that translates into higher TV ratings, bigger advertising revenue to follow and overall revenue for the NHL and its television partners. Certainly the potential is there. Whether or not Comcast's NBC Sports Group can deliver that remains to be seen.


National Hockey League official news release (August 1):
VERSUS to be rebranded as NBC Sports Network

NBC Sports (August 1):
VERSUS to be rebranded as NBC Sports Network

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