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DATE News (chronologically)
12/30/11
TV news
irl
Versus to become NBC Sports Network  UPDATE
The NBC Sports Group launches the NBC Sports Network at 4 PM ET on January 2nd to replace Versus, which had been Comcast’s bullriding and gunshooting and cycling channel pre-NBC Universal merger. The new strategy is to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into “a consistent framework of branding”. 

Notice there is no mention of IndyCar in all of this, which underscores how little they think of the series.

The better to compete with Disney’s ESPN and Fox Sports. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform, according to Jon Miller, the president of programming for NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network: “We have three tranches of programming that we’re looking to put on NBC Sports Network starting with live events, live games, and big-league relationships.

The second tranche is original news, talk and conversation. The third tranche is the original programming we’ve developed with the NHL around shows like NHL 36, with the NFL like NFL Turning Point, and with the Bob Costas show that will be breaking this year, Costas Tonight, as well as the Costas Town Halls.

We’ll embrace the brands that are already associated with NBC Sports like the Triple Crown. We’ve added the MLS to our portfolio. We have a strong and robust relationship with the Tour de France. And then we will obviously have an extensive Olympic presence come June, July, and August with the Olympic trials, then actually live Olympic programming throughout the game.” zzzz

Highlights of NBC Sports Group’s January 2 Schedule (all times are ET:
7:30 AM: VERSUS Replay of 2010 NHL Winter Classic
10 AM: VERSUS Replay of 2011 NHL Winter Classic
1 PM: NBC 2012 NHL Winter Classic
3 PM: VERSUS NBC Sports: A Storied History
4 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game (from Philadelphia)
4:30 PM: NBC Sports Network Cold War on Ice: 1972 Summit Series
6 PM: NBC Sports Network NBC SportsTalk
7:30 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Pre-Game
8 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL: San Jose at Vancouver
10:30 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game
11 PM: NBC Sports Network Replay of NBC SportsTalk
12:30 AM: NBC Sports Network NHL Overtime

PRESS EVENT: Below are highlights of a NBC Sports Group and NHL press event held on Dec. 21 in 30 Rock’s famed Studio 8H with the following participants:

  • Bob Costas – NBC Sports Winter Classic host
  • Sam Flood – Executive Producer, NBC Sports & NBC Sports Network
  • John Collins – NHL Chief Operating Officer
  • Adam Graves – Former New York Ranger and the team’s current Special Assistant for Prospect Development and Community Relations

Click here for an NBCU Direct video of Emrick, Flood and Miller speaking at the event: http://www.nbcudirect.com/nhlwinterclassic122711/

COSTAS ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WINTER CLASSIC: “All of us at NBC, everybody in the stands and most importantly all the players understood, even as it began, that this was something not just out of the ordinary. This was something that was going to be tremendously successful.”

EMRICK ON THE CHALLENGES THAT COME WITH CALLING AN OUTDOOR GAME: “I try to look at it as a player, and how they play regardless what happens. I also take the wisdom of our producer before we start. Sam always says, remember, a lot of people that don't normally watch hockey are going to watch this. I think those two things together are the thing that I focus on, and you try to not get in the way and just let the celebration begin with the opening face-off and go from there.”

FLOOD ON PRODUCTION: “We treat it as an event. This is not a hockey game, it's an event. We want to make it bigger because of the field it's being played on. It's not in a confined building; it's outdoors. So we have an airplane. I was so proud in Buffalo when we played the first replay of a goal from an airplane. We knew we were the first people ever do that because no one had ever covered a game with an airplane before, so we thought that was a neat trick. We’re also using a CableCam for the second time. We've figured out cool ways to use that CableCam that we see in every NFL game, but you can't do it in a hockey game, but it works here. We've figured out how to make it special and unique.”

“We have all the bells and whistles, 30 cameras for a hockey game we have more cameras than players on each team which is a nice treat to have for a production team to go have some fun with it. The goal is to make people fall in love with a hockey game the way it first began, which is outdoors, under the open sky, which is how I played as a kid in the Boston area.”

LUUKKO ON WHAT HOSTING THE EVENT MEANTS TO PHILADELPHIA: “When you can be showcased in an event like this. I think a lot of the reason that people look at us as an original six type team is we've only had one face. We've been consistent in our play.”

“This game propels your organization. In our case, selling out the Alumni Game, selling out, obviously, the Winter Classic.”

GRAVES ON RANGERS-FLYERS MATCH-UP: “The best part for me with this year's game is that both teams are firing on all cylinders and they're both at the top of the conference. Whenever you get these teams together, they're both fast teams, they're good on specialty teams, and they're both very, very intense.”

MILLER ON THE LAUNCH OF NBC SPORTS NETWORK: “Clearly there's been a lot of work going on with the rebranding and the re-launch. The idea to flip it on Jan. 2 gave us the window of using a high-profile event that is big to NBC and to the NHL. What better place to re-launch and tell the world about what your new brand is going to be than around this event.”

MILLER ON WHAT FANS CAN EXPECT ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK: “We have three tranches of programming that we're looking to put on NBC Sports Network starting with live events, live games, and big-league relationships. The second tranche is original news, talk and conversation. The third tranche is the original programming we've developed with the NHL around shows like NHL 36 with the NFL, with NFL Turning Point, the Bob Costas Show that will be breaking this year, Costas Tonight, as well as the Costas Town Halls. We'll embrace the brands that are already associated with NBC Sports like the Triple Crown. We've added the MLS to our portfolio. We have a strong, robust relationship with the Tour de France, and then we will obviously have an extensive Olympic presence come June, July and August with the Olympic trials, then actually live Olympic programming throughout the game.” --NBC Sports Group--

08/01/11 Versus will officially become NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, and the name change is "timed to coincide with NBC's broadcast of the NHL Winter Classic and the run-up to NBC's February telecast of Super Bowl XLVI." NBC's other sports channels, such as Golf Channel, "will not be part of this rebranding." Also Comcast's RSNs "will keep their Comcast SportsNet names" SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL

This of course is good news for IndyCar, for two reasons 11) they are in the midst of renegotiating their network TV deal with ABC, and 2) NBC Sports Network will be NBC's version of ESPN and available in more households on a higher tier programming package.  IndyCar will make a major blunder not going with NBC instead of ABC because then all their races will be on NBC and NBC Sports network, which ensures cross-promotion between the two.  As it is now, ABC is not going to promote an NBC property/station, and vice-versa.

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