UPDATE, 12:20 PM: Turns out a lot of people like to get up early on a Saturday to watch hockey – a lot. The final Nielsen numbers are in and yesterday’s 7:30-10:30 AM USA 3-2 Olympics victory over Russia’s men team drew a record 4.1 million viewers for NBC Sports Network. The most to ever watch a hockey game on the channel. In fact, the audience peaked all the way up at 6.4 million in the last half hour as the two teams went head-to-head against their respective goalies in the 8-round shootout. That’s the most viewed half-hour in NBCSN’s history. Additionally, Saturday’s results beat the previous NBCSN hockey audience record of 4.0 million who tuned in on June 17, 2013 to watch the Stanley Cup Final Game 3 between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. The USA-Russia game yesterday also delivered NBCSN’s best-ever daytime audience with 2.9 million watching as the channel continues it’s third straight viewership weekend day record of the Sochi Games.
NBC Sports Network was known as Versus until the beginning of last year, and is about to adopt a new name: NBCSN. It will be a gradual transition, with new graphics and references phased in leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February. But the company says that it will “significantly increase” the effort beginning Saturday with its coverage of the Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City. NBCSN will be used as the “primary mark” for the network. “This is a natural evolution from the longer channel name to the acronym, as NBCSN is streamlined visually and a faster read,” says NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller. Viewers will see an image that says “NBC Sports Network” dissolve into the new logo, with an NBCSN voiceover. “By the Winter Olympics in February, the transformation will be complete, and the Games will be used to solidify NBCSN as the network’s name and brand,” Miller says. At that point the full name, NBC Sports Network, will only be seen from time to time. The Saturday rebranding initiative comes the same weekend that 21st Century Fox introduces Fox Sports 1.
The companies hinted in December, when they announced a sports content alliance, that we’d see collaborative programming arrangements like the two announced today. This week they’ll introduce Fantasy Football Live — Thursday Night, a weekly show that helps NFL fantasy players build their teams. A version for TV will run each week at 6:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. At 7 PM a digital-only version will appear on Yahoo Sports and NBCSports.com. The program will use data from NBC Sports’ fantasy site, Rotoworld.com. Then, on August 19, NBC Sports Network will introduce an hour-long weekday show, SportsDash With Yahoo! Sports, with news and feature stories based on topics that are trending on the Internet platform. It will be followed by a 15-minute version on Yahoo, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. “We are very excited to extend our relationship with NBC Sports in an innovative way that combines the best of broadcast and digital media,” says Kenneth Fuchs, head of Yahoo! Sports and Games.
NBC and NBC Sports Network are putting on the foil before the puck drops on the next National Hockey League season. The same day the league released its 2013-14 schedule, NBC Sports Group announced that the broadcast net and its cable sibling will air a combined 103 regular-season games during the NHL campaign. NBC Sports has fared well with its NHL coverage, with last month’s six-game Stanley Cup Final drawing the championship series’ most viewers since 1994. Overall, this year’s NHL playoffs averaged 1.47 million viewers across 84 games on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, resulting in the most-watched playoffs since 1997.
ESPN is said to have matched NBC’s offer for a media rights package to the Big East conference’s games through the 2019-2020 academic year in a deal worth $130M, according to various sports media reports. NBC Sports Network made an official offer last week and ESPN, as the current primary rights holder, had one week to meet the bid. Sources said ESPN matched the financial offer, but further details are to be considered. Presidents from the Big East could vote as early as this weekend on accepting the deal for seven years of men’s basketball and six years of football, ESPN reported. Big East’s current basketball deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 school year. Its deal with ESPN for football expires after the 2013-14 term. ESPN’s league sources said CBS would also extend its basketball rights deal for an extra $2M per year.
Even though its corporate executives at Comcast are meeting with the Vice-President discussing ways to curb gun violence, NBC Sports Network said today it will not be dropping its sponsorship of the largest gun trade show in America next week. A network spokesperson told Deadline that NBC Sports has “participated in the SHOT Show for several years as part of our commitment to our outdoor programming block.” This reaffirmation of the network’s continuing sponsorship of the Sporting, Hunting Outdoor Trade show comes less than a month since the tragic Connecticut school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Various broadcasters and studios altered or delayed their content in the wake of the killings. NBC Sports’ commitment to the SHOT show also comes one day after David L. Cohen, EVP of NBCUniversal owner Comcast, participated in a White House meeting on curbing gun violence with Vice-President Joe Biden’s gun safety task force and other representatives of the entertainment industry. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which runs the Las Vegas-based SHOT Show, also participated in such meetings with Biden and others on Thursday. NBC’s own Bob Costas repeatedly chastised existing accessibility to guns after the killing of 20 children and six adults at the Newtown school on December 14. The NSSF itself is headquartered in Newtown, Conn. The SHOT Show runs in Vegas from January 15 to 18.
The National Hockey League cancelled another swath of games today, eliminating all regular season games through December 14 plus the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio that was scheduled for January 27. The NHL lockout has now wiped out 422 regular season games plus the Winter Classic that was cancelled earlier this month. The lack of progress between the league and the National Hockey League Players Association increasingly threatens cancellation of the entire season. The union submitted a new proposal at the league’s request on Wednesday, but that offer was rebuffed, leaving the players and owners at odds. The union offered to link the players’ share to revenue in the league’s preferred percentage-based system, a substantial concession. But the owners object to the union’s plan to honor existing contracts — $393 million compared to the league’s last offer of $211 million. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the lockout has resulted in the league losing between $18 million and $20 million daily. The lockout has also been painful for NBC Sports Network and NBC, which have rights to NHL games. This is the fourth work stoppage for the NHL since 1992, including cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.
NBC Sports Network has acquired multi-year rights from DirecTV to broadcast The Dan Patrick Show, TV and syndicated radio program with Football Night in America co-host Dan Patrick. The show will debut on NBC Sports Network tomorrow and air weekdays from 9 AM–Noon ET. A Best Of version will air weekday afternoons from 4-5 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. To coincide with tomorrow’s debut of the show NBC Sports Network will relocate to Channel 220 (from Channel 603) on DirecTV, adjacent to other sports channels. Patrick’s show also airs daily on DirecTV’s exclusive Audience Network.
If the National Hockey League and its players union fail to reach a new labor agreement and avoid a lockout, NBC could be scrambling for a replacement for one of the linchpins of NBC Sports programming. NBC signed a $2 billion, 10-year contract with the NHL last year. Any delay in the upcoming season would stall any momentum the network established with the London Olympics. Talks between the NHL and players union broke down last week over economic issues such as revenue sharing. Team owners owners have threatened to lock out players if they don’t have a deal by September 15. As of this afternoon, Reuters reported that talks between the two sides had not resumed. Comcast was counting on hockey to strengthen its NBC Sports Network. A lockout would result in major holes to fill in the fledgling network’s prime-time lineup.
NBC Sports Group and Time Inc. Sports Group are teaming up to produce a monthly TV show titled Sports Illustrated. The announcement was made today by Jon Miller, President of Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network and Time Inc. Sports Group President Mark Ford. The show will feature segments, original reporting and commentary from SI’s journalists as well as spotlight stories from the past. The show, sponsored by Lexus, will premiere on the NBC Sports Network on July 24, just three days before the Opening Ceremony from the 2012 London Games. Subsequent new episodes with originate on either NBC Sports Network or NBC. Emmy Award-winning Red Line Films has been tapped to produce.
You’ll like this news if you enjoy seeing men try to give each other brain trauma. NBC’s cable sports channel says this morning that it has renewed its Fight Night series of Saturday matches for a second season, and plans to up the number of bouts to 16 from six — with at least six matches a year. NBC Sports President Jon Miller adds that NBC Sports Group will try to book as many as two Fight Night broadcasts on NBC. The company says that its deal with Main Events and matchmaker J Russell Peltz will give any promoter “the opportunity to get their boxers involved in these programs and allows viewers the ability to see world class match-ups that would not otherwise take place.” Peltz adds that the fights “have been promoted the old-fashioned way, in sold-out noisy venues in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Bethlehem and Newark. This is the way boxing was meant to be.” Kenny Rice will remain the play-by-play commentator, joined by boxing trainer Freddie Roach and cruiserweight contender B.J. Flores. Chris Mannix will continue to be the ringside reporter.
NBC had the rights to the two-day horse racing series from its start in 1984 until 2005. As part of the new deal, the main event, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will run in primetime on the network on the East Coast — a first. Friday and Saturday’s other coverage is set for NBC Sports Network, recently rebranded from Versus. The pact reaffirms the network’s commitment to the sport, after it aired all three Triple Crown races last year for the first time since 2005. From the release:
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”. 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.”
Highlights of NBC Sports Group’s …
Ross Greenburg, who in July departed as president of HBO Sports, has been tapped to produce documentaries for the newly formed NBC Sports Group, which includes the NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel and NBC. He also will produce Costas Tonight, the new monthly interview show that will debut in spring 2012 on the NBC Sports Network — the new name of Comcast’s rebranded Versus channel that launches January 2. That’s also the airdate of Greenburg’s first documentary, Cold War On Ice: Summit Series ’72, which looks at a hockey series between Canadian All-Stars and the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1972. Greenburg founded Ross Greenburg Productions after ending his 33-year career at HBO, the last of 11 of which were spent as president of the sports division. He previously worked with Costas on the premium network on the sports broadcaster’s On the Record and CostasNOW. “Ross is a master storyteller and a perfect fit to produce high-quality, relevant programming for all of our platforms, particularly NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel,” said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus. “His award-winning collaborative relationship with Bob made the decision to retain Ross to oversee production of Costas Tonight a natural.”
NBC Sports announced today that it has sealed a three-year agreement with Major League Soccer that will begin at the start of next season. No financial terms were revealed, but The Sports Business Journal said the deal is reportedly worth $10 million a year. The MLS package previously was housed at Fox, which showed games on its cable network Fox Soccer Channel; ESPN and Univision also have TV rights as part of a separate agreement. The NBC pact will see the network air 45 league games and four U.S. National Team games each season televised live across NBC and NBC Sports Network (the new name of Versus, which is rebranding in January). The move will return soccer to broadcast TV, and is an upgrade for the league’s cable footprint (Versus has 76 million subs; Fox Soccer has 39 million).
NBCUniversal’s NBC Sports Group has been busy building its portfolio since its formation after NBCU’s sale to Comcast: It has a new chairman, Mark Lazarus, who replaced Dick Ebersol; it retained rights to the Olympics through 2020; and in April it inked a new 10-year deal with the NHL worth $2 billion.
Another name change post Comcast-NBCUniversal merger. At TCA’s press tour today, Mark Lazarus, Chairman of the NBC Sports Group, announced that sports channel Versus, previously owned by Comcast, was being re-branded as the NBC Sports Network beginning on Jan. 2, 2012. Comcast’s sports properties had already been folded into the NBC Sports Group immediately after the merger. Lazarus called the re-branding a reflection of “a strategic refocusing of the Versus brand to leverage the heritage of NBC Sports on cable.” Also getting a face-lift is the NBC Sports logo, which has been slightly updated.