NBC Sports Group, the parent company of Versus has announced today the rebranding of the cable network effective January 2, 2012. The new network will be called NBC Sports Network and is the home of the NHL, Indycar Racing, Professional Bull Riding, and the Tour de France among others.
The decision is part of a move to unify all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets into one consistent umbrella of branding. Those include the broadcast network, two national cable networks (Versus and Universal Sports), a digital network and 11 regional sports networks (Under Comcast SportsNet name). A redesigned NBC Sports logo is shown to the left.
The NBC Sports Network will feature many enhancements including documentaries, storytelling features and increased programming dedicated to horse racing and Notre Dame football. Versus already carries Mountain West Conference college football and basketball. The network began as Outdoor Life Network before being rebranded as Versus in 2006 when it acquired the cable rights to the NHL after the lockout.
January 2, 2012 was chosen as the rebranding date for several reasons including several sporting events with a large viewing audience within a short time frame that can be used to market and bring awareness to the new network. Those events include Notre Dame football, Sunday Night NFL football and the NHL Winter Classic that will be played the same day. Other cross-promotion opportunities the network will have the first week will be the end of the NFL regular season Jan. 1, and the NFL Wild Card doubleheader which NBC will broadcast two playoff games Jan. 7. On February 5, 2012, NBC will broadcast Super Bowl XLVI from Indianapolis, which will give it significant cross-promotion between the two networks.
Comcast, which owns NBC, also reported that Versus’s primetime viewership had doubled since the merger with NBC in February 2011. In April, NBCSports.com absorbed Versus.com to create a single online destination for fans.