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Ebersol: Versus to be Re-Branded to include NBC Sports Brand

Category: College Sports Television News, Editorial, Featured News

This week we saw NBC Sports President, Dick Ebersol make an official comment on the worst kept secret: that Versus would eventually be rebranded in some capacity as NBC Sports.
Versus will be the primary NBC Sports network, that much seems to be known.

But the regional networks will also likely be in the mix for some rebranding, such as ComcastSportsNet Bay Area (CSN Bay Area) potentially becoming NBC Sports Bay Area, or CSN New England becoming NBC Sports New England. Or course, Comcast networks like SNY in New York will likely be exempt, since they are a joint business by the NY Mets, Time Warner and Comcast.

But the key, is that with these upcoming moves, the door will be opened for NBC Sports to get more aggressive in obtaining more college sports broadcast rights for it’s regional networks, the primary NBC Sports Network (currently called Versus), and perhaps even NBC itself.
Since the business is currently tied to the model of networks partnering with conferences, there are only so many options at this time.
Comcast already has the Mountain West in it’s fold via the Mtn, in theory, so they have those west coast markets.

The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and soon to be Pac-10 are locked up or about to be locked up elsewhere via ESPN/ABC, CBS and FoxSports.

But all of a sudden, maybe the new TCU included Big East conference could make a push to be the east coast conference tied into the new NBC Sports, since the Big East is already a big part of SNY in NY.

And if Fox can’t fully pony up the $20 million for the Big 12 schools, a promise made to keep that conference together, then maybe you make a bold move to get that conference.

In the perfect world for NBC sports, that would mean having the Big East (east), Big 12 (Central) and MWC (West). That would be huge for the regional networks since like FoxSports, it would mean having (3) games on in EVERY region each Saturday: a 12pmET(9amPT) Big East game, a 4pmET(1pmPT) of a Big 12 game, and an 8pmET MWC game(5pmPT) each week on 1 network.

Even better, if you can get 1-2 more conferences on top of the MWC, even just the Big East, then you have a choice for having a featured game each week on NBC Sports (currently called Versus). Some weeks it might be Pitt vs WVU, or Syracuse vs Pittsburgh, while other weeks it might be more like Boise St. vs SDSU.

And if this works out, there is always the opportunity for the NBC Sports re-named network (currently Versus) to have a featured game each Saturday on NBC. There is something to be said about each week having Notre Dame on NBC either followed by or preceding a featured MWC or Big East game of a high magnitude.

But at this time, with only the MWC in the mix, and it’s not as strong a product to be putting out there on a national level on a network like NBC that would likely have higher ratings in golf.

Time will tell and we’ll know more as the Comcast and NBC merger makes more progress.

But it appears that with a national brand like NBC combining with the strong infrastructure already in place via the Comcast regional sports networks, that like ABC has with the ESPN properties of ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, or how FoxSports is with it’s regional contracts, perhaps we’re about to see a new power player enter the mix. Of course, with new competition, will mean even higher TV contracts for the schools/conferences to benefit from.

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  1. If ESPN/ABC wants anything, it will pay ALMOST anything to get it. It will be difficult for anyone to beat them to get a BCS conference.

  2. True, but if the Big East is the only option left after the Pac-10 is all wrapped up, does it make sense for ESPN to even match a higher offer for the Big East (if it ever came)? Might not be if you have virtually everyone else locked up on your own.

  3. I would think that ESPN/ABC would partner with the Pac-12 for its own channel. I am not sure if they would do the same for a Big East channel if they wanted to go in that direction. In any event, the winners are the conferences because they will, like The Game of Life, collect boo-koo bucks.

  4. Sure ESPN/ABC has plenty of money to bid on events, but the merger of Comcast/NBC Universal combines the largest cable company in the world (lots of revenue from cable/phone/Internet subscriptions), w/one of the largest content producers in entertainment. That’s quite a combo. Comcast has deeper pockets than “The Worldwide Leader”, keep in mind that at one point it was reported Comcast made a bid to purchase ABC/Disney (ESPN’s parent company).
    So, who has more buying power?

  5. I would say that NBC/Versus will get more sports that ESPN does not really want anymore. That has already happened with the Triple Crown horse races. That will give ESPN more room to keep sports that it wants and get sports that it does not have. There is one fact that we know for sure. The Sports Conglomerate Wars have begun.


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