As you’ve probably heard, Comcast is in heavy negotiations to acquire NBC for roughly eleventy kerjillion dollars, give or take a kerjillion or threeve. What effect that would have on NBC’s sports programming seemed to be of minimal concern… until you realize that Comcast also owns the Versus Network, and boy would they like to have some good content on that channel, seeing as how DirecTV reportedly called it “a glorified infomercial”. You probably already know where this one’s going.
According to the SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, if NBC gets swallowed up by the cable giant, Notre Dame’s probably one of the first big sports programs headed to Versus. And the school and its fans can complain until they’re hoarse, but Notre Dame’s the first to blame; after all, a move to cable is already in their contract.
From the SBJ:
The combination of a broadcast network paired with cable sports channels presents the best opportunity for Comcast to develop a credible alternative to ESPN.
The key to making that happen is to share sports programming between NBC and Versus/Golf Channel. While some NBC sports programming, like “Sunday Night Football,” will stay exclusive to the network, other programming could be shared with Versus or Golf Channel.
The Olympics are an obvious choice, since NBC already spreads Olympic programming across its cable networks.
But Comcast also has its sights set on Notre Dame football. Sources said NBC’s deal with the Fighting Irish has a clause that allows a certain number of games to migrate to cable. Versus would be a natural place to house those games.
Versus also could have the right to re-air NBC’s Notre Dame games. And it could roll out pre- and postgame shows around them. In June 2008, NBC signed a five-year extension for Notre Dame’s home football games, a deal that extends through the 2015 season.
It’s a shrewd move for the network’s sake; when DirecTV’s dismissing a channel as “generally infomercials and paid programming,” it’d better come back with a numbers-mover. The UFL is not one, and the NHL barely qualifies. Notre Dame football is that numbers-mover.
Unfortunately for Versus, though, it’s not enough to even start thinking about the channel as a “viable alternative” to the WWL. In essence, they’re doubling down on one provincial outfit and hoping national recognition follows suit. It’s not a long-term plan for success, especially since most people don’t really care about Notre Dame. It’s not like NBC is a trusted source of college football information, after all.
Ah, but baby steps. Perhaps this is how Vs. gets its hands on the WAC and MWC. Or the Big East. Either way, their college football strategy, if they’ve got one, has got to be more than “get Notre Dame.”