NBC Sports Brand Going Local

NBC Sports is going local. Comcast plans to place the "NBC Sports" brand on its collection of regional sports networks that stretch from Boston to Portland.

"Something like 'NBC Sports Philadelphia,' 'NBC Sports Chicago,' etc.," said Dick Ebersol, the head of NBC Sports.

The move drops the Comcast and now "CSN" brand from the regional networks, where the main programming is local pro sports teams.

An "NBC Sports" channel will launch in Houston next year, giving the brand a presence in six of the country's top-10 markets. Chicago and Philadelphia are the country's third and fourth largest.

Ebersol said the aim is to "give viewers everywhere a much better sense of just who we are, wherever they go."

Ebersol spoke about the re-branding while appearing last month on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's radio show on Sirius XM.

The NBC Sports brand will soon get more national awareness, too, as the Versus network takes that moniker in some form later this year.

Versus is "one of the more unfortunate names possible chosen for a channel because what does it mean?" Ebersol said.

Back in 2006 when it was launched, network president Gavin Harvey had an answer, telling the AP: "(Versus) is immediate shorthand for competition and has a range that can suit everything from stick and ball sports, to bull riding, to field sports. We felt it was a slam dunk, and sports fans we talked to all agreed."

It had been known as the Outdoor Life Network. When Comcast took a controlling stake in NBCUniversal, it merged Versus (and the regional networks) into an NBC Sports Group.

Versus is already gone from cyberspace with its Web site having been taken down.

Ebersol tips his cap to ESPN's size and impact and doesn't publicly indulge the media's hunger for an ESPN-NBC bout. But, NBC will now have something ESPN lacks.

It has been suggested ESPN squandered the opportunity to go into regional sports networks when the business was building. The networks are immensely profitable and a local presence has advantages.

There is an ESPN Chicago. But it's online.

Tags: television, tv
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