The Versus channel is now gone, re-branded as the NBC Sports Channel, and is now available through several cable and satellite television providers. What will the name change from Versus to NBC sports mean for sports fans? Following years of domination by ESPN/ABC, is NBC finally on the comeback trail when it comes to sports coverage?
Initially, Versus subscribers won’t see many changes as the NBC Sports Network is rolled out nationally. Comcast, the new parent of NBC and the owner of Versus for many years is looking to increase the value of the network. Re-branding the network under a much friendlier brand name is a no-brainer. But what about the actual content on the NBC Sports Channel?
NHL games will continue to be the big draw in major sports markets. The Winter Classic featuring the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers kicks of the party today. After that the NBC Sports Channel will still be battling against ESPN which features plenty of NBA, college football, and NFL action with their Monday Night Football contract locked up for at least another eight years.
The NBC Sports Channel will rely on some star power, bringing in Bob Costas to host Costas Tonight. The show will feature live guests and a studio audience, with Costas interacting with both. The downside? The show will only be shot once a month! A monthly show isn’t going to build a large and loyal audience on the new NBC Sports channel.
Still, the network does have the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympic games, as well as plenty of NHL playoff action on the slate. Additionally, live Tour de France coverage will continue this year, along with a new Major League Soccer (MLS) contract which will bring 38 live games to viewers this year.
The network is currently found on DIRECTVchannel 603, and should be there for the foreseeable future. Comcast, the parent company of Versus – and DIRECTV settled a nasty carriage dispute in March of 2010. The seven month blackout of the Versus channel on DIRECTV cost the network 14 million viewers at the time. NBC Sports Network is available to customers subscribing to the Choice Xtra package or higher.