The announcement of the Comcast Corp.-owned sports channel, Versus, which features NHL, bull riding, mixed martial arts, and cycling, among other sports, will become official come January 2, 2012. Comcast Corp.'s other sports network, The Golf Channel, will keep its name.
The branding follows Comcast's majority-interest takeover of NBC Universal last January, which was followed by the creation of the NBC Sports Group and the NBC Sports Agency, a marketing unit. Some of the initial efforts created cross-platform promotional and marketing efforts between the NBC network and Versus and Golf Channel.
One of the earliest efforts has been with re-branding NBC's golf events on the broadcast network, now called "Golf Channel on NBC."
NBC and Comcast sports channel Versus have already done much to cross-promote, given their shared partnership in the NHL, where the NBC airs the Stanley Cup to complement Versus heavy regular-season NHL hockey games. Also, NBC and Versus share Kentucky Derby and Tour de France programming.
This will be fourth name for the network; it started as the Outdoor Life Network, which was then shortened to OLN. In 2006, the name was changed to Versus.
The date of the new name on Jan 2 is intended to take marketing advantage of high-profile sports programming this time of year.
The day before, on Sunday, Jan. 1, the NFL's regular season will conclude with NBC's "Sunday Night Football." On Jan. 2, the NHL Winter Classic will be featured on NBC. On Jan. 7, NBC Sports broadcasts a NFL Wild Card doubleheader. Finally, on Sunday, Feb. 5, Super Bowl XLVI will be broadcast on NBC.
NBC Sports group will share more programming and on-air resources, as well as adding more NBC Sports storytelling and profiles of athletes. The personal angle has been a strong feature of NBC's Olympic sports effort.
The new NBC Sports Network could also air some future Olympic programming. Another network -- Universal Sports, a network focused on Olympics sports, of which NBC Universal has a financial interest -- already bears part of the NBC Universal name.