The new Versus NBC Sports Network is the latest, best hope as a challenger to mighty ESPN. And even though NBC Sports Network is starting on a pretty blank slate, you have to give them credit for wanting to compete directly with the WWL's flagship program... SportsCenter. Starting next Thursday, the network formerly known as Versus will begin rolling out their vast array of new, original programming. And the fun starts with taking a direct hit at ESPN's flagship show.
That's right, NBC has announced a nightly Monday-Friday 6PM show called NBC SportsTalk that will air opposite ESPN's 6PM SportsCenter. The anchor for the nightly show will be Russ Thaler from Comcast Mid-Atlantic. It's not a surprise that NBC/Comcast would stick within their family to find an anchor for the new show, but it's also a risk to entrust a regional sports anchor to head up this ambitious competitor to SportsCenter.
Further announcements from NBC Sports have shed more light on the role personalities like Mike Florio, Darren Rovell and Peter King will have on the network. Florio will join Thaler on Mondays to convert NBC SportsTalk to Pro Football Talk, an hour-long focus on the NFL. Mondays will also feature an hour-long college football wrapup show (not surprisingly called College Football Talk) to lead in to Florio's NFL show. Peter King then joins the party on Fridays with Florio and Thaler to preview the upcoming NFL weekend on NBC SportsTalk.
New details have emerged from Darren Rovell himself on Twitter concerning his Friday night show as well. Apparently Rovell (Twitter savante that he is), will be incorporating social media throughout his show. Also, CNBC Sports Biz: Game On will apparently have a sideline reporter (?!) in Erin Sharoni. And... judging by Rovell's sideline reporter, this may be a sports business show worth watching. All kidding aside, Rovell is one of the smartest in the sports media business, and his show should provide great content that can't be found on other networks.
Original NHL and NFL programming (including a show we told you about backed by NFL Films) will be sprinkled in throughout the week to round out programming. A future soccer wrap-up show would also be a wise decision once NBC's deal with MLS kicks in to go after another audience starved for attention. Tuesday through Thursday though will prove to be more interesting in terms of how well NBC SportsTalk will directly compete with SportsCenter. It looks like on those non-football centric broadcasts, NBC will try to rely on their other talent in the NBC/Comcast family to carry a general sports news/information show on a nightly basis. Of course, NBC is claiming they aren't trying to compete with ESPN's SportsCenter, at least according to our friends at Sports Business Journal.
However, you have to think NBC's decision to air a nightly sports news show at 6PM is showing some ambition. Truth be told, the ratings for these new shows will be grim in the beginning. Still, the NBC brand and the synergy NBC Sports Network is creating with their online content (Pro Football Talk, etc.) should help immensely. As we all know from the ESPN Book, Bristol didn't become the WorldWide Leader overnight. But, it sure seems like NBC Sports Network is making all of the right moves in the beginning of their journey towards eventual world domination, because that's what every sports network strives for these days, right? All that's missing is that new 8-game NFL package...