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NBCU’s Versus Launches Live Block of Studio Shows

9/05/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

NBC Sports Group, looking to
establish an evening destination for
sports information and analysis, continues
apace with its revamp of Versus via
this week’s launch of a new weeknight
block of live studio shows.

The “NBC SportsTalk” block, in the 6
p.m. hour, centers on the NBCSports.com digital franchise that includes
ProFootballTalk, HardballTalk, Pro-
BasketballTalk, ProHockeyTalk, CollegeFootballTalk,
InsidetheIrish and
ProGolfTalk.

The live block of shows, kicking off
Sept. 8 — the first night of the National
Football League season, with NBC
showcasing the New Orleans Saints and
defending Super Bowl champion Green
Bay Packers — focuses on the sports
world’s most relevant topics and features
NBC Sports Group talent, who will
not only report on the news, but put its
significance into perspective.

BOOKENDING FOOTBALL

Mondays (ProFootballTalk With Mike
Florio
) and Fridays at 6 p.m. ET will be
devoted to football, while the rest of the
week’s shows will examine the most topical
sports stories du jour. Starting Oct. 10, Mondays will
feature NHL Live at 6:30 p.m., which will serve as a leadin
to the network’s hockey coverage.

Versus, which will be rebranded as the NBC Sports Network
on Jan. 2, will also debut a sports-business show with
CNBC’s Darren Rovell, entitled CNBC Sports Biz: Game
On
, on Fridays at 7 p.m. The block will also be repeated,
although the timing has not yet been finalized.

Officials at NBC Sports Group said
they are not trying to compete with
ESPN’s SportsCenter, which typically airs
in the 6 p.m. hour. “[ESPN] does a great
job. We want to give fans a destination,
an alternative, for
relevant information
and analysis,”
said Jon Miller, president
of programming
for NBC Sports
and Versus. “It’s a
chance for sampling
for Versus.”

The network ’s
new lineup also features
CollegeFootballTalk
hosted by
Liam McHugh, with Ross Tucker and
Roland Williams, on Mondays at 5 p.m.
Prior to that, Versus will air a two-hour
cut-down show of college football games
that air on NBC (Notre Dame) or the cable
network the previous weekend.

Also due up is NFL Turning Point, in
which NFL Films will focus on a pair of
contests from the prior Sunday and examine
the crucial moment of the game,
on Thursdays, starting Sept.15.

Amidst this action, Versus also will face off enhanced
NHL coverage as part of NBC Sports Group’s 10-year, $2
billion deal with the puck circuit.

The 6 p.m. talk block also presents a vehicle for the
group’s varied resources.

“We have four platforms to draw from NBC Sports,
national cable network Versus, soon to be NBC Sports
Network, the digital platforms and the 11 soon to be 12
(Houston Astros and Rockets service that is slated to bow
in 2012) regional sports networks,” Miller said. “No one
else has that combination.”

NBC SportsTalk will be hosted by former Comcast
SportsNet Mid-Atlantic anchor Russ Thaler. He will
be joined by talent from across all NBC Sports Group
platforms, including Peter King
of Sports Illustrated and Football
Night in America
and ProFootball-
Talk’s Florio, on NBCSports.com
for the special NFL-themed show
on Friday nights.

“Mike Florio has done amazing
things with ProFootballTalk and Peter
King is the No. 1 NFL information
guy,” Miller said. “He has an
unmatched Rolodex when it comes
to players, coaches, GMs, league execs
and officials.”

ON THE BUSINESS BEAT

Rovell’s sports business show on Friday nights will focus on
the $200 billion business of professional sports, with such
segments as “Power Player,” where he interviews sportsbusiness
newsmakers; “The Scoreboard,” in which he and
“sideline reporter” Erin Sharoni review the sports business
winners and losers of the week; and “Heavy Hitters,” in which
insiders break down how one aspect of the business works.

“We’ve been talking with Rovell for the past five years
about this, but there was never a platform. With the Comcast-
NBCU merger there is,” Miller said, describing the
programming as quick-paced, covering the business
around leagues, labor, facilities, teams, media, marketing
and sponsorship. “In part it will be about BMW, Mercedes
and Audi, Coke versus Pepsi. AT&T and Verizon
and how they tie to sports. There’s interest in those kinds
of relationships.”

September