On Jan. 2, the cable sports network known as Versus will be rebranded as NBC Sports Network, just in time to coincide with NBC’s coverage of the 2012 NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Here are the NBC Sports Group’s programming plans for the transition from Versus to NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2:
NBC SPORTS GROUP BROADCASTS 2012 NHL WINTER CLASSIC® & LAUNCHES NBC SPORTS NETWORK ON JAN. 2
Fifth NHL Winter Classic Presented Live on NBC at 1 p.m. ET
“A holiday tradition.” — Newsday
NBC Sports Group to Air 26 Hours of Hockey Programming Surrounding the Winter Classic Beginning with NHL Alumni Game on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. ET on VERSUS
VERSUS Becomes NBC Sports Network at 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 with Special NHL Live Winter Classic Post-Game Show Hosted by Bob Costas from Philadelphia
NEW YORK – December 27, 2011 – January 2 is an important day for the NBC Sports Group as it broadcasts the 2012 NHL Winter Classic at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and launches the NBC Sports Network, currently VERSUS, immediately following the game at 4 p.m. ET with a special NHL Live post-game show hosted by Bob Costas from Philadelphia.
NHL WINTER CLASSIC: This year’s game features an intense rivalry between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division as the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers battle outdoors at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, home of the Phillies. This is the fifth iteration of the NHL Winter Classic, an event created by both NBC Sports and the NHL, and that has already been described as “a holiday tradition” by Newsday.
NBC’s coverage of the Winter Classic will be hosted by Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award-winner. He will be joined by NBC Sports Group studio analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick for coverage on NBC and post-game coverage on NBC Sports Network. NBC’s game coverage will be led by Emmy Award-winner Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play) Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter).
Last year’s Winter Classic was the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years. Played between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and broadcast on New Year’s Day in primetime due to a weather delay, the game was watched by 4.5 million viewers.
A time-lapse video of the rink being built at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia:
FROM VERSUS TO NBC SPORTS NETWORK: As part of a new strategy to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into a consistent framework of branding, VERSUS will be re-named the NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. ET. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform for NBC Sports’ rich heritage of unmatched storytelling, best-in-class production and broad promotional power. Following are highlights of Dec. 31-Jan. 2 programming:
Prior to being re-branded, VERSUS will kick-off the weekend with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game featuring former Philadelphia Flyers against former New York Rangers in a New Year’s Eve showdown on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. ET. The Alumni Game will showcase six members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, recent retirees and Stanley Cup winners, including Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros and NBC Sports’ Jeremy Roenick. NBC Sports Network guest analyst and former Rangers coach Mike Keenan, who won the Stanley Cup in 1994 while coaching the team, will lead the Rangers alumni team.
Continuing the transition to the NBC Sports Network, VERSUS will premiere the hour-long special, NBC Sports: A Storied History, on Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. ET following the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game, chronicling the last seven decades of Emmy Award-winning event coverage on NBC Sports.
On Jan. 1, VERSUS will air the 2008 and 2009 NHL Winter Classics at 7 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET, respectively.
Jan. 2 will begin on VERSUS and end on the NBC Sports Network. VERSUS will air the 2010 and 2011 Winter Classic games back-to-back at 7:30 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. At 3 p.m. ET, it will air an encore presentation of NBC Sports: A Storied History. At 4 p.m. ET, the switch will be flipped and the NBC Sports Network officially launches with a special NHL Live Winter Classic Post-Game show hosted by Costas and featuring all the highlights from the outdoor game.
The new NBC Sports Network will continue with hockey-themed programming at 4:30 p.m. ET with the premiere of Cold War on Ice: Summit Series ’72 produced by Ross Greenburg. The documentary focuses on the hockey series played in 1972 between a team of Canadian NHL all-stars and the Soviet Union national team during the height of the Cold War.
Cold War on Ice will be followed by a special 90-minute edition of NBC SportsTalk at 6 p.m. ET, NHL Live at 7:30 p.m. ET and the Vancouver Canucks hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. ET. NHL Live post-game and NHL Overtime will end the NBC Sports Network’s first day.
Highlights of the NBC Sports Group’s Jan. 2 Schedule (all times ET, subject to change):
7:30 a.m.: VERSUS — Replay of 2010 NHL Winter Classic
10 a.m.: VERSUS — Replay of 2011 NHL Winter Classic
1 p.m.: NBC — 2012 NHL Winter Classic
3 p.m.: VERSUS – NBC Sports: A Storied History
4 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — NHL Live Post-Game (from Philadelphia)
4:30 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — Cold War on Ice: 1972 Summit Series
6 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — NBC SportsTalk
7:30 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — NHL Live Pre-Game
8 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — NHL: San Jose at Vancouver
10:30 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — NHL Live Post-Game
11 p.m.: NBC Sports Network — Replay of NBC SportsTalk
12:30 a.m.: NBC Sports Network — NHL Overtime