Another “Competitor” to Battle ESPN?

2 12 2009

With their looming acquisition of NBC, Comcast will seek to revamp their Versus sports channel into a forceful opponent of ESPN.

According to Richard Sandomir at the New York Times, the transformation of the Comcast cable channel into an NBC entity will take between 12 and 18 months.  During this period, the media conglomerate will attempt to grab hold of new talent and programming that could rival the “worldwide leader in sports.”

Comcast's Versus may go after ESPN (


Right now Versus’ leading sports coverage is on the National Hockey League, which attracts the fewest number of viewers out of the big four American professional sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL).  To reach ESPN‘s level of coverage, Versus will have to attract “bigger events, like the Olympics, Major League Baseball. the National Football League, Nascar, and the National Basketball Association,” Sandomir said in his article. “With NBC, Comcast Zeros in on ESPN.”

These sporting events are far more popular than those the Comcast channel currently holds rights to, which include IndyCar and the Professional Bull Riders.

If Comcast and NBC are serious about constructing the next big sports media outlet, they will have to go beyond obtaining rights to cover these events, and invest in popular and credible personalities and commentators who can entice sports fans away from ESPN and other cable chanels such as Fox Sports.

ESPN/ESPN HD is currently the number one cable channel in terms of revenue: in 2009 alone, it brought in $6.3 billion, according to USAToday.  It continues to rank in the top ten cable channels in terms of viewership, as well.

With enough time and investment, NBC and Comcast have the ability to propel Versus ahead of ESPN, however it is unlikely it will happen — at least in the near future.  

The idea that the Versus will be spotlighted in the midst of a such a merger seems incredulous and as long as ESPN continues to provide excellent sports coverage while attracting new viewers, Versus will be limited to the “alternative” rather than “competitor” stage.




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