NBC Sports Network - Good Things To Come?

When I heard that Versus was rebranding as NBC Sports, I thought to myself that it would be nice if that meant they would actually improve their coverage of the NHL. A few people on BSB mentioned that they wished NBC Sports Network or "someone, anyone" would challenge ESPN someday. I just turned on the Blues - Stars game on NBCSN, and I realized that this week there was a game on NBC on Saturday and then NBCSN on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights! That brought me to an all too common Wikipedia-loop to read up on NBC Sport Network. I am sure that the following is not new info for some of you, but I bet many like myself did not know the details.

The TWC - MSG blackout notwithstanding, more non-Rangers games being televised should excite any hockey fan. It looks like we are getting that, and more. The 60 second history of the channel is that it started out as a Comcast channel called Outdoor Life Network, which had some hockey coverage rights and a bunch of other total crap programming. Eventually, Comcast wanted it to be a more serious sports network, it rebranded as Versus, and it continued to buy NHL rights. In February 2011, Comcast bought NBC and planned to merge the sports programming of the two networks and create some serious competition for ESPN.

In April 2011, NBC won the 10 year NHL rights package, detailed as:

  • A rights fee of roughly US$200 million per year for the combined cable and broadcast rights, nearly triple that of the previous contract.[88]
  • Increased weekly regular season coverage on NBC Sports Network (as many as 90 games per season on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights).
  • An annual "Thanksgiving Showdown" game airing on NBC the day after Thanksgiving ("Black Friday" afternoon). The November broadcast is the earliest an NHL regular season game has aired on an over-the-air U.S. network since the 1950s, when the league still only had six teams.
  • Continued coverage on NBC of the NHL Winter Classic, which will henceforth be played in prime time on New Year's Night if and when possible (although the 2012 edition of the Winter Classic was played on the afternoon of Monday January 2).
  • A national "Game of the Week" continuing on NBC as in previous years, beginning each January.
  • Hockey Day in America becoming a permanent annual part of the NBC schedule.
  • Rights to any future Heritage Classics, which would be aired on NBC Sports Network.
  • Digital rights across all platforms for any games broadcast by NBC or NBC Sports Network.
  • Increased coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff games, with all playoff games airing nationally on NBC, NBC Sports Network, or if necessary, another NBC-owned network such as USA. Local sports networks can carry their teams' 1st round games, but any games on NBC, and any NBC cable games from the 2nd round onward, will be exclusive to NBC.
  • Continued sharing of the Stanley Cup Final on NBC (which will air Games 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7) and NBC Sports Network (Games 3 and 4).

I found additional details that for this season, NBC/NBCSN increased it's televised games from 54 last season to 90 this season, including 17 appearances by your New York Rangers. It will show 10 games in the final 7 days of the season leading up to the playoffs!

The network will also expand it's other coverage with more college football, lacrosse, olympics, major league soccer, and COLLEGE HOCKEY. Michigan vs. Notre Dame on Friday night, btw. It will also be adding more original programing, like a new Bob Costas show on NBCSN. Now, if only they would get new hockey announcers!

Lengthy Wikipedia details here:

Merger with NBC Sports

In February 2011, Comcast acquired a majority share in NBC Universal, and merged its content operations into the company. As part of the acquisition, Versus, and Comcast's other sports channels, began to be integrated into the NBC Sports division. Coinciding with the merger, President Jamie Davis was replaced by Comcast Sports Group President Jon Litner. Litner will now oversee the channel, in addition to his other duties following the Comcast takeover.[20]

In March 2011, Versus expanded its college football coverage by becoming the cable partner for NBC's coverage of Notre Dame football, airing replays of Notre Dame games, and the first ever live broadcast of the team's annual intramural game. Its coverage began with a marathon of three classic Fighting Irish games on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, to serve as a prelude to its coverage of the intramural.[21]

For the 2011 season, Versus also returned to airing the National Lacrosse League with a 9 game package, starting with the 2011 All-Star Game and culminating with the Champion's Cup final.[22] Beginning with the 2012 NLL season, U.S. broadcast rights would shift to CBS Sports Network, which will carry eight regular season games.[23]

On June 6, 2011, it was revealed that NBCUniversal would be extending their rights to the Olympic Games through 2020, outbidding competing bids by Fox Sports and ESPN in a $4.38 billion contract. It is expected that Versus will participate in NBC's overall coverage beginning at the 2012 Summer Olympics.[24][25][26]

Relaunch as NBC Sports Network

In April 2011, NBC Sports and Versus announced they had reached a ten-year extension to the television contract with the National Hockey League worth nearly 2 billion dollars over the life of the contract. As part of the announcement, Dick Ebersol, the former chairman of NBC Sports, said that Versus would be renamed "within 90 days" in order to reflect the synergy resulting from the merger.[27] However, no announcement of a new name would come until August 1, 2011, when Comcast officially announced that Versus would be relaunched as the NBC Sports Network on January 2, 2012. The relaunch coincided with NBC's coverage of the NHL Winter Classic, which took place on the same day.[24]

In an interview with TV Guide, president of programming Jon Miller detailed that NBC Sports Network would be "radically different" from Versus in many ways. His goal was for Versus for to become a credible "full-service sports network", with a new lineup of sports news and talk programs and live event coverage. Low-brow programming such as Whacked Out Sports and The T.Ocho Show, were quickly removed from the lineup after the takeover, as Miller believed they were inconsistent with the ideals of NBC Sports, and that they would hurt the channel's credibility. At the same time, the channel began an initiative to begin producing new original programming — including NBC Sports Talk and the weekly CNBC Sports Biz (hosted by CNBC's sports business reporter Darren Rovell), which both debuted in the fall of 2011. Additionally, Bob Costas will host the new series Costas Tonight, which will consist of monthly interview specials (to debut in the spring), and quarterly town hall specials — the first of which will air from Indianapolis on February 2, 2012, as part of NBC's overall coverage of Super Bowl XLVI).[28]

Additionally, the channel made efforts to expand its current programming contracts and acquire new properties to air on the channel. The first of these was announced on August 10, 2011, when NBC Sports announced a new broadcasting partnership with Major League Soccer, where a slate of 38 regular season games, 3 playoff games, and 2 national team matches will be aired by NBC Sports Network during the 2012 season.[29] On the same day, the UFL announced that it had not renewed its contract with the channel, and that the league would instead give those games to regional sports networks.[30]

In November 2011, the channel also announced a new package of college hockey games, beginning with a game on December 31, 2011 (still as Versus) featuring Boston University at Notre Dame, followed by a series of Friday night games beginning in January 2012, and national coverage of the Hockey East conference tournament (its coverage may be subject to blackouts in New England, since NESN may still cover the event locally). Additionally, NBC Sports Network will air Notre Dame's home games beginning in the 2013–2014 season, when it will join the Hockey East conference. NBC Sports Network's college hockey coverage will be produced by the same staff responsible for its NHL coverage.[31][32] The first NBC Sports Network college hockey telecast aired with Steve Schlanger doing play-by-play and NHL color analyst and commentator Ed Olczyk doing color commentary.

Anyway, I am not sure I would go as far as calling this "exciting", but as a hockey fan it is a good sign and as a sports fan, it is too. If they can put in a 3 times per night sports news show that rivals Sportscenter and actually gives fair coverage to hockey, they will have me as a loyal viewer.

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