NBC Sports Network: Versus Replacement Won't Be Able To Compete with ESPN

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  NBC broadcaster Bob Costas provides analysis as the Indianapolis Colts host the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
David DanielsSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2012

Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco may have been the NBC Sports Network’s only hope.

Versus is out and the NBC Sports Network, or NBCSN, is now in.  Their first day with their new name, they’ll be forced to air a hockey documentary.  Why?  Because they don’t have contracts with leagues like the NFL and NBA to show their games.

And that’s why NBCSN won’t be able to compete with ESPN.  Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported what exactly the channel will offer sports fans.

Programming this first year will lean heavily on the Olympics, 38 regular-season Major League Soccer games, 13 IndyCar Series races, 14 hours a day of Tour de France coverage for most of July, 90 regular-season NHL games along with 50 NHL playoff games, 20 hours of horse-racing coverage around the Triple Crown, and 40 college football, basketball, and hockey games.

Soccer, racing and hockey…ouch.

According to Michael Hiestand of the USA Today, ESPN reaches approximately 100 million households compared to just 76 million for NBCSN.  And comparing college football numbers, ESPNU alone reaches 0.3 percent of houses next to 0.2 percent for the new guys.

Not even half of television viewers have heard of Versus.  But NBC Sports Programmer John Miller doesn’t believe that’s a problem saying,  “There was a lot for niche audiences, but nothing that would get people to stay.  NBC is a 70-year-old brand name.  We'll pound away on that.”

According to the TV Guide’s Rich Sands, Miller also mentioned other key changes to the channel:

When we took over Versus, there was a lot of programming on the network that we didn't think was consistent with what NBC Sports was about.  And so the first thing we did was we jettisoned some properties like Wacked Out Sports and T.Ocho and Sports Soup.

At least with something like the T.Ocho Show they would’ve had must-watch personalities.  Even more than broadcasting live action, NBCSN won’t be able to compete with ESPN personalities like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on First Take, Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd on SportsNation, Tony Cornheiser and Michael Wilbon on P.T.I. and the columnists on Around the Horn.  

NBC Sports Network will be an improvement over Versus, but if they have their minds set on competition with ESPN, they'll get blown out of the water.


David Daniels is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.

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