NBC Sports Network
|NBC Sports Network
|Launched||January 2, 2012
July 1, 1995 (as Outdoor Life Network)
|Network||NBC Sports Group|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)
|Formerly called||Outdoor Life Network (1995–2006)
|Sister channel(s)||NBC Sports
|Dish Network||159 (HD/SD)|
221 SD / 221-1 HD ALT
|Available on most cable systems||Check local listings|
|Verizon FiOS||590 (HD)
|AT&T U-verse||1640 (HD)
|Sky Angel||328 (SD)|
|Google Fiber||NBC Sports Network|
The NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) is a cable sports channel in the United States operated as a division of NBC Sports. It previously launched on July 1, 1995, as the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), which was dedicated to programming primarily involving fishing, hunting, outdoor adventure programs, and outdoor sports. By the turn of the 21st century, OLN became better known for its extensive coverage of the Tour de France, but eventually began covering more "mainstream" sporting events—resulting in its relaunch as Versus in September 2006.
Comcast, the original owner of Versus, acquired a majority stake in media company NBC Universal in 2011. As a result, Comcast merged the operations of its cable channels with those of NBC. In particular, it aligned the operation of its sports channels with NBC's sports division, NBC Sports. On January 2, 2012, Versus was re-branded as the NBC Sports Network to reflect these changes. As of March 18, 2013, the entirety of NBC Sports' operations except for Football Night in America (which will remain at Studio 8G in Rockefeller Center), including the Network, is based out of facilities in Stamford, Connecticut.
As the Outdoor Life Network 
The channel originally launched as the Outdoor Life Network (or OLN) on July 1, 1995; the name was licensed from Outdoor Life magazine. Its programming consisted of hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventure shows. In its early days, the channel reached around one million homes and found most of its carriage via the then-infant platforms of direct broadcast satellite services and digital cable.
In 1999, OLN acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to the Tour de France for US$3 million. Coverage of the Tour on OLN brought substantially greater viewership to the then fledgling channel, due in part to the growing popularity of American rider Lance Armstrong. In 2004, where Armstrong would aim for a record-breaking 6th straight Tour de France title, OLN would devote over 344 hours in July to coverage of the Tour, along with documentaries and other original programming surrounding the event—which was promoted through a $20 million dollar advertising campaign.
Overall, while its coverage of the Tour de France helped OLN expand its carriage to over 60 million homes, critics became concerned that OLN's coverage had placed too much of its focus on Armstrong as its main attraction for viewers, and doubted if OLN could sustain itself without the viewership that Lance Armstrong's presence had brought to its coverage. Some critics had jokingly referred to OLN as the "Only Lance Network" due to its overemphasis on the American rider.
Following the 2005 Tour (where Lance Armstrong captured his seventh victory in the race, and announced his retirement from cycling afterward), OLN debuted a new lineup of programming—anchored by repeats of the popular reality television series Survivor. OLN's executives believed that bringing Survivor into its lineup would fit well with the new direction it had planned for OLN, and could attract viewership from fans of the show who had watched it on CBS. Around the same period, OLN also acquired the rights to the Dakar Rally, America's Cup, the Boston Marathon, and the Iditarod. OLN planned to cover these multi-day events in a similar style to how it covered the Tour, hoping that its coverage might bring "surprise" results for the channel. Due in part to Lance's absence from the Tour in 2006, its ratings for live coverage of the first four stages of the race drew in 49% fewer viewers than previous years.
OLN and the NHL 
In May 2005, ESPN rejected a $60 million offer to renew its broadcasting contract with the National Hockey League into the 2005-06 NHL season, and the league rejected its alternate proposal for a revenue sharing agreement similar to the one it had established with NBC. With the NFL also shopping a new late-season package of Thursday and Saturday night games to potential broadcasters, speculation began to surface that Comcast would bid on the new NHL contract as its first step to transforming OLN into a mainstream sports channel that could compete with ESPN. Comcast had already been involved in NHL broadcasting; at the time, it owned majority control of the Philadelphia Flyers, and four Comcast SportsNet regional sports networks.
In August 2005, ESPN officially declined to match Comcast's offer, and OLN officially acquired cable television rights to the NHL beginning in the 2005–2006 season in a three-year deal worth close to $200 million. The new deal would include 58 regular season games on Monday and Tuesday nights, coverage of the NHL All-Star Game, conference finals, and the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. With the help of its new NHL package, by June 2006, OLN had now reached 75 million subscribers. However, due in part to OLN's lesser carriage in comparison to ESPN, the NHL's ratings that season had suffered in comparison.
In 2006, OLN broadcast selected games in the Arena Football League's 2006 season. They televised a weekly regular-season game for 11 weeks as well as a wild card playoff game. However, the agreement was not renewed and was later picked up by ESPN, who also acquired a minority stake in the league's ownership.
As Versus 
In April 2006, Comcast officially announced that it would be renaming Outdoor Life Network to Versus in the Fall of 2006. As the network had shifted beyond simply "outdoor" programming, the name "Versus" was intended to represent the common element of competition within its lineup. OLN's re-launch as Versus officially occurred on September 25, 2006.
Among the new programming acquired by Versus included a number of combat sports, beginning with a series of boxing programs promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank group. They also began televising Chuck Norris's World Combat League, a kickboxing promotion where fights are contested in a unique round ring without ropes. Versus entered into a partnership with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) to bring mixed martial arts events to the channel, with the first being broadcast live on June 3, 2007. They aired all the WEC events, except for WEC 48, which aired on pay-per-view, with live preliminary fights being aired on Spike TV.
They also added a variety of sports events as part of the rebranding, including men's and women's college basketball, high school basketball, a weekly "game of the week" for the National Lacrosse League, darts competitions, the Major Indoor Soccer League, and the USA Sevens, one of the nine tournaments (then eight) that make up the IRB Sevens World Series, the top annual circuit in the sevens version of rugby union.
In addition, the channel also added a package of college football games to its lineup, with games from the Mountain West Conference, Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and Big 12 conferences. totaling 19 scheduled college football games on the channel during 2007.
They secured coverage for the 2007 America's Cup, which was also a staple on ESPN and ESPN2 for years. They began to show qualifying regattas in late 2005. They also aired the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers in 2007, and the America's Cup match between the Louis Vuitton winner and current champions, won by Alinghi of Switzerland in Valencia, Spain. In 2006, they picked up American broadcast rights (in conjunction with The Tennis Channel) of Davis Cup events.
Versus, with NBC Sports and the World Championship Sports Network (now Universal Sports), broadcast coverage of the 2007 World Championships in Athletics from Osaka, Japan, as well as the 2009 World Championships in Athletics from Berlin, Germany.
On January 28, 2008, Versus and the NHL extended their deal through the 2010–2011 season. In June 2008, operations were moved from Stamford, Connecticut, to Comcast's headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On August 7, 2008, they announced a 10-year deal with the Indy Racing League to broadcast at least 13 IndyCar Series events a year in HD, beginning in 2009. The channel would also broadcast various motorsports series on its Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour program such as USAC, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, and World Series of Off-Road Racing.
The channel began airing games from the United Football League in 2009. The first season Championship aired on November 27, 2009. The UFL would return to the channel for a second season in 2010.
On April 5, 2010, The Daily Line debuted. The show consisted of a four-person panel (host Liam McHugh, handicapper Rob DeAngelis, comedian Reese Waters, and Jenn Sterger) which discussed, often with heavy satire, sports-related topics that were popular that day. However, the show was canned due to low viewership on November 4, 2010.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship would air two live events on the channel due to the new contract agreement with UFC sister promotion World Extreme Cagefighting. The first edition of UFC on Versus aired on March 21, 2010 headlined by Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones in the Light Heavyweight division. The second event aired on August 1 with Jon Jones facing Vladimir Matyushenko. Also as part of the agreement with the UFC, several UFC Countdown shows would air. There was a countdown show the week of a PPV, usually lasting for one hour, and covering 2–3 of the biggest fights on the card. In August 2011, the UFC announced a new broadcasting deal with the channels of rival Fox Sports, which would begin to take effect in November 2011.
They had also struck a deal with the NBA to air 10 regular season NBA Development League games as well as 6 playoff games a year. Games will air Saturday nights. In total, they would air 16 NBA Development League games in addition to 25 hours of NBA programming specials.
Starting in August 2010, they aired nine races of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Wednesdays at 7 pm The races originated from a variety of locations, including Stafford Motor Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, and Thompson Motor Speedway.
Merger with NBC Sports 
In February 2011, Comcast acquired a majority share in NBC Universal, and merged its content operations into the company. As part of the acquisition, Versus, and Comcast's other sports channels, began to be integrated into the NBC Sports division. Coinciding with the merger, President Jamie Davis was replaced by Comcast Sports Group president Jon Litner. Litner will now oversee the channel, in addition to his other duties following the Comcast takeover.
In March 2011, Versus expanded its college football coverage by becoming the cable partner for NBC's coverage of Notre Dame football, airing replays of Notre Dame games, and the first ever live broadcast of the team's annual intramural game. Its coverage began with a marathon of three classic Fighting Irish games on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, to serve as a prelude to its coverage of the intramural.
For the 2011 season, Versus also returned to airing the National Lacrosse League with a 9 game package, starting with the 2011 All-Star Game and culminating with the Champion's Cup final. Versus would drop the NLL for the 2012 NLL season, U.S. broadcast rights were instead picked up by CBS Sports Network.
On June 6, 2011, it was revealed that NBCUniversal would be extending their rights to the Olympic Games through 2020, outbidding competing bids by Fox Sports and ESPN in a $4.38 billion contract. NBC Sports Network began to participate in NBC's overall coverage beginning at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Its coverage of the gold medal game between the United States and Japan in Women's soccer set a new viewership record for the network, with 4.35 million viewers.
Relaunch as the NBC Sports Network 
In April 2011, NBC Sports and Versus announced they had reached a ten-year extension to their television contract with the National Hockey League worth nearly $2 billion over the life of the contract. As part of the announcement, Dick Ebersol, the former chairman of NBC Sports, said that Versus would be renamed "within 90 days" in order to reflect the synergy resulting from the merger. However, no announcement of a new name would come until August 1, 2011, when Comcast officially announced that Versus would be relaunched as the NBC Sports Network on January 2, 2012. The relaunch coincided with NBC's coverage of the NHL Winter Classic, which took place on the same day.
In an interview with TV Guide, president of programming Jon Miller detailed that NBC Sports Network would be "radically different" from Versus in many ways. His goal was for Versus to become a credible "full-service sports network", with a new lineup of sports news and talk programs and live event coverage. Programming such as Whacked Out Sports and The T.Ocho Show were dropped from the lineup, as Miller thought that low-brow programming would hurt the channel's credibility. The channel began an initiative to begin producing new original programming during the transition as well. NBC also made efforts to expand its current broadcasting relationships and acquire new sports properties to air on the channel. In the months leading up to the re-launch, NBC struck deals with Major League Soccer, dropped the UFL, and added coverage of college hockey and the Hockey East conference tournament.
Event coverage 
- NHL on NBC (2005–present)
- College Football on NBCSN (2006–present)
- College Basketball on NBCSN (2007–present)
- IndyCar Series on NBC (2009–present)
- At least 13 races per season
- Notre Dame Football on NBC (2011–present)
- Pre-game show
- Notre Dame spring game (Blue-Gold game)
- Thoroughbred Racing on NBC (2011–present)
- Triple Crown pre-race coverage
- Undercard races
- College Hockey on NBCSN (2011–present)
- Friday night hockey
- Hockey East championship
- MLS on NBC (2012–present)
- CFL on TSN (2012–present)
- Regular season games
- CFL Playoffs
- Grey Cup
- Formula One on NBC (2013–present)
- Practices and qualifying
- 13 races on NBCSN
On October 28, 2012, NBC Sports announced that it had also acquired the rights to English Premier League soccer in a three-year deal beginning in the 2013–14 season. The majority of games are to be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and several other NBCUniversal cable networks.
On December 16, 2012, NBC Sports Network, along with CNBC, aired a portion of the Sunday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. This was because the game's coverage on NBC was interrupted by President Barack Obama's press conference following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. NBCSN will continue to serve as overflow coverage for Sunday Night Football and other NFL games covered by NBC in the event the ongoing game was interrupted by an NBC News special coverage.
Original programming 
Original programs aired by the network include NBC SportsTalk, and the weekly CNBC Sports Biz, which both debuted in the fall of 2011. Bob Costas hosts Costas Tonight, which consists of monthly interview episodes, and quarterly town hall specials—the first of which aired from Indianapolis on February 2, 2012, as part of NBC's overall coverage of Super Bowl XLVI.
The network also added more documentary-style series, including 36, Caught Looking (a weekly series co-produced with Major League Baseball), and Sports Illustrated, a monthly series produced in conjunction with the magazine.
On August 13, 2012, NBC Sports Network premiered a new morning show, The 'Lights, which consists of a 20-minute loop of sports highlights with no on-camera personalities, repeated from 7:00 am to 9:00 am ET.
Carriage disputes 
At the beginning of September 2009, DirecTV pulled Versus from its lineup, as it was unable to reach terms on a rate increase demanded by Comcast. In public statements (including a message shown on the channel which formerly carried Versus), DirecTV scolded Comcast for its "unfair and outrageous demands", and considered the company to be "simply piggish" in its demands for higher rates, as it described Versus as "a paid programming and infomercial channel with occasional sporting events." On March 15, 2010 an agreement was reached between the sides and Versus returned to DirecTV's lineup. The channel was returned to its original package on the service, Choice Xtra. The network has since drastically drawn down its paid programming blocks to the traditional early morning berths only under NBC management.
High definition 
A 1080i high definition feed of the network was launched in January 2007. Initially, its HD feed with shared with sister network Golf Channel in an arrangement marketed as 'Versus/Golf HD; Golf Channel programming was broadcast during the daytime hours, and Versus programming was broadcast during the evening and primetime hours. The shared channel was replaced by individual HD feeds for both channels in December 2008.
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