By Mike Reynolds — Multichannel News, 8/1/2011 12:01:00 AM
As expected, national cable network Versus will be rebranded to reflect its membership in the NBC Sports Group.
The rechristening of Versus as the NBC Sports Network will take place on Jan. 2, 2012, as part of a strategy to bring all four tiers of the group’s assets — the broadcast network, national cable networks, regional sports networks and digital platforms — into a more consistent branding framework.
“This effort is a major step towards a complete strategic alignment of all our platforms and businesses,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said. “This is more than just a name change for Versus. It’s a complete repositioning of the brand to provide value for marketers, consumers as well as all our affiliates and distributors. We want anyone who comes into contact with any of our assets to immediately connect with the NBC Sports brand promise.”
The new year will also ring in a redesign of the NBC Sports logo.
Since Comcast gained a controlling stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric last January, the NBC Sports Group has integrated a number of production and programming elements. In February, all of the golf broadcasts on NBC were rebranded as “Golf Channel on NBC.” In April, NBCSports.com absorbed Versus.com to create a single, online destination for fans. As for Versus, it adopted the “Inside the Glass” production philosophy for all its National Hockey League telecasts, and the two secured a 10-year, $1.9 billion media rights deal with the league.
Versus has also supported NBC programming with supplemental horse racing and Notre Dame football related fare. Moreover, most expect the network to air a significant amount of Olympic programming from the 2012 London Summer Olympics and through the end of the decade, via NBC’s $4.4 billion rights deal with the IOC for the 2014-20 quadrennials.
For Versus, name changes aren’t uncommon. Under Comcast, the service, which presented an array of field, stream and outdoor sports action, was initially known as Outdoor Life Network. In 2005, after the network signed its initial deal for NHL rights, that name was truncated to OLN. In September 2006, Versus was adopted to reflect the further broadening of the network’s focus on competition (both sports and man-vs.-nature).
The refreshed NBC Sports logo, featuring an evolutionary design that maintains the equity of its classic predecessor, will also be implemented on Jan. 2.
NBC Sports Group is timing the Versus rebrand and the NBC Sports logo redesign to capitalize on the promotional pulpit of some of its most high-profile events.
On Sunday, Jan. 1, the NFL’s regular season will conclude with week 17 of Sunday Night Football. On rebrand day itself, the NHL Winter Classic will air on NBC, which will air an NFL Wild Card playoff doubleheader on Jan. 7. Super Bowl XLVI from Indianapolis, which figures to be the most-watched telecast of 2012 and perhaps all-time, will provide a massive promotional platform for the new looks on Feb. 5.
The NBC Sports Group’s 11 regional sports networks, most of which use the Comcast SportsNet moniker, are not currently scheduled to be rebranded. However, Lazarus said, “Many will evolve to have the look and feel of our NBC Sports brand and production values.”