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.”
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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.”
The Associated Press is reporting that NBC Sports has made a deal to move its longtime home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to Stamford, Conn., to take advantage of state tax incentives there. The move out of the network’s flagship headquarters would take the division 35 miles away to Connecticut, which is dialing up an economic development plan that includes luring companies away from their spendy and cramped Manhattan real estate. The AP reported that a government official with knowledge of the deal said details about the tax credits still have to be worked out between the legislature and NBC, but the city is already home to syndicated NBCUniversal shows Maury, The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show and is the headquarters of NBC Sports Group sibling Versus.
There is no scheduling drama over President Barack Obama’s speech on jobs between the White House and the broadcast networks. The networks will all carry the speech, which, in a rare occasion, is not in primetime as it starts at 7 PM ET tomorrow. NBC was the only network that had to make a significant adjustment as it had the NFL kickoff pre-game scheduled for 7 PM, leading into the 8:30 PM season-opening game between the Saints and the Packers. The pre-game is being moved to NBC’s sibling cable channels Versus, USA, Syfy and G4 as well as the NFL Network, with NBC joining the program in progress immediately after the president’s address. Last week, the White House and House Speaker John Boehner went back-and-forth on the timing of the speech, which Obama originally planned for Wednesday but ultimately pushed to Thursday after getting pushback from Boehner.
Thanks to the merger of its parent company Comcast with NBCUniversal, which has had a deal with the NFL, sports cable channel Versus is getting in on the NFL action. NFL Films and the NBC Sports Group will launch new one-hour program, NFL Turning Point, that will air weekly on Versus during the NFL regular season, starting Sept. 15. It is the first NFL program ever to air on Versus, which will be re-named the NBC Sports Network Jan. 2. The series will provide behind-the-scenes coverage of two games.
Fox Sports and mixed-martial arts league UFC have just finalized a multi-year deal that will put at least four primetime MMA cards on the Fox network each year and weekly programming on cable sibling FX. The Sports Business Journal says the deal could be worth as much as $90 million a year over seven or eight years; Fox Sports declined to comment. A broadcast deal is a big step up for UFC, which in addition to lucrative pay-per-view events has weekly shows on cable nets Versus and Spike TV — under the new agreement with Fox, that programming will move to FX beginning in January after those deals expire. (Spike TV still owns rights to a library of UFC programming, including episodes of UFC Unleashed, through 2012.) Fuel, another Fox-owned cable network, also will see some UFC programming, SBJ says. The deal also is a coup for Fox: In June, it was reported that Comcast’s NBCUniversal was in serious negotiations with UFC, with those talks centered on the league taking a controlling stake in NBCU’s G4 cable network, which sported the right young-male demo but has seen ratings challenges. NBCU-owned Versus also already had UFC programming. Instead, rival Fox has taken those demo eyeballs away.
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.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has told a chief administrative law judge that Comcast should be forced to carry the Tennis Channel the same way the cabler carries its own Golf Channel and Versus networks, setting up a showdown Wednesday at the FCC in which both groups will argue their cases. Tennis Channel filed a complaint last year saying that the indie was assigned a high channel number on Comcast systems compared with Comcast’s similar sports nets, arguing that Comcast did so to favor its own properties. An agency spokesman said that each side will have 30 minutes to present arguments on the matter before Judge Richard L. Sippel tomorrow; there is no deadline for the judge’s decision, which could include upholding the FCC’s request to fine Comcast $375,000 and force it to move Tennis Channel nearer other sports channels. This is not a new fight for Comcast: It also is dealing with a complaint filed by Bloomberg TV regarding the FCC’s “neighborhood clause,” which says similar channels must be grouped together. Bloomberg says Comcast is favoring its NBCUniversal property CNBC by giving it a low channel number compared with Bloomberg’s channel.
UPDATE, 12:00 PM: NBC says it paid $4.38 billion for the four Olympics matches. But the network won because NBC’s track record with the games “speaks for itself” and the company “has a clear and innovative vision of where it wants to take the broadcast of the Games between now and 2020,” International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge says. Investors initially appear to be satisfied with the price that Comcast authorized NBC to pay. Even if the network loses money “we continue to see the Olympics as less of a financial decision and more of a strategic and branding initiative” for NBC, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker says. Comcast expects the Olympics to help stabilize NBC, which the cable company has vowed to revive. In addition. Comcast plans to use the games to beef up its cable networks Versus and The Golf Channel.
PREVIOUS, 10:00 AM: Deadline has now confirmed that NBC has retained the U.S. Olympic television rights in a 4-games deal through 2020. The AP was first to report the news out of Lausanne where the International Olympics Committee is meeting and puts the bidding number at ”worth more than $4 billion” — which is $1 billion less than expected. The decision has not yet been officially announced by the International Olympic Committee, but NBC is acknowledging it won a 3-way bidding contest against ESPN and Fox. It will have exclusive rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the 2018 Winter Games and 2020 Olympics, whose sites have not yet been chosen. NBC has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002.
Executives from NBC, ESPN and Fox submitted sealed envelopes into a see-through plexiglass box, then left the building to let IOC officials open them and consider the offers in private for the first U.S. rights auction for the Olympics since 2003. All three networks kept emphasizing in their presentations that the Olympics would be presented live, something which NBC has come under fire for because of all the tape-delaying of the games to air during primetime in recent years. Here’s hoping that NBC changes its ways without Dick Ebersol at the helm. That said, the NBC win is going to help Comcast’s long-range plans to make its sports network into a juggernaut able to challenge both ESPN and Fox Sports.
NBC’s presentation to the IOC included new Comcast owners Steve Burke and Brian Roberts. Missing, of course, was longtime NBC sports czar Dick Ebersol who resigned last month after butting heads with Comcast. But the 17-member NBC delegation included mainstay Olympics host Bob Costas. ”My message was we’ve done it well and we’d like to do it again,” he said from Lausanne. Read More »
UPDATE, 10:45 AM: The 10-year contract will take the partnership through the 2020-21 season and calls for 100 regular-season games a year, including for the first time a national broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday. The press release is below.
PREVIOUS, 9:29 AM: There’s a conference call scheduled for later today in which NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NBC Sports Group chairman Dick Ebersol are expected to announce that NBC and Versus have retained broadcast rights to NHL hockey. Bloomberg reports that the package is for 10 years and worth $2 billion. The two networks could match any bid because they own the current rights. Among the bidders was ESPN and Turner Sports, the latter of which pulled out of the race Monday.
NEW YORK (April 19, 2011) — The National Hockey League and the NBC Sports Group have reached agreement on a landmark 10-year television and media rights deal, taking the partnership through the 2020-21 season. The expanded partnership, under which NBC remains the exclusive network home and VERSUS the exclusive cable home of the NHL® in the U.S., is highlighted by the first-ever national distribution of all Stanley Cup® Playoffs contests, including, for the first time, exclusive coverage starting with the Conference Semifinals. The agreement also calls for the NBC Sports Group to televise 100 regular season games per year and introduces a national NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday. The announcement was made today by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports Group.
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With Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal completed, the newly formed NBC Sports Group – which consists of NBC Sports, Golf Channel, VERSUS and 11 Comcast regional sports networks – this morning unveiled its executive structure under chairman Dick Ebersol. Turner veteran Mark Lazarus, who has long been rumored to take run the new group’s cable properties, is the only outsider on the team, while NBC Sports execs are being given the reins of Comcast’s Versus and Golf Channel. Here is a rundown of the new exec hierarchy: Read More »