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NBC Sports Network Debut

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The NBC Sports Network officially kicked off yesterday afternoon with the airing of the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. Officially changing its name from “Versus” on January 2, 2012, the NBC Sports Network is now a 24/7 sports channel. First, the good. NBC’s coverage of the NHL continues to expand as they have inked a 10 year deal with the NHL for more regular season coverage as well as playoff and Stanley Cup coverage. This is great for the NHL and will allow the NHL market to grow even further. Yesterday, it was the hockey’s turn in the spotlight and it gave an opportunity for the NHL to shine. I believe they succeeded, because yesterday’s game was one of the best Winter Classic games that I have seen. A strong battle between two rivals in a close game (did you see Danny Briere’s penalty shot?!).  

Then, following the Winter Classic, the NBC Sports Network aired an original documentary called, “Cold War on Ice: Summit Series ’72” which was produced by former HBO Sports boss Ross Greenburg. This was a 90 minute documentary which covered an 8 game exhibition hockey match between the Soviet Union and Canada. What a great documentary! I was impressed with not only the footage, but the interviews. What a great idea it was to follow up the Winter Classic with none other than a documentary about hockey! If you get a chance to watch the documentary, I highly recommend it. There will be repeats of the documentary.

Now, the bad. I’m not sure what NBC’s stated goals are? One can assume that NBC wants to compete with ESPN and CBS Sports, but to what degree? I have been looking over the programming for the next couple of days on this new channel and I must say, I am not impressed. Fishing, poker, racing, more NHL coverage. Being that this new channel is officially one day old, I will give them a pass. But NBC had better get it together. ESPN is the monster in the room that has a huge advantage over pretty much anybody. Obviously NBC has plans to expand. The network has deals or pending deals with the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, and its other meal tickets include the Tour de France and the 2012 summer Olympics. In addition, NBC has plenty of documentaries and talk shows lined up. Also, expect NBC Sports Network to be a player and try to obtain some serious live programming — such as major league baseball, Thursday night NFL, NASCAR — when of course those come up for bidding again.

All-in-all, I think that NBC Sports Network had a good start. But it needs to seriously capitalize on this momentum if it wants to succeed. Stay tuned.

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