This is NBC’s turn in the rotation for the Super Bowl broadcast, so beginning with Saturday’s games on through to the end of the Super Bowl, there will be ample opportunity to remind viewers of what’s to come and what to expect from the new sports channel.
It’s pretty much well-known in sports circles that NBC took over VERSUS and has officially renamed the channel beginning this year to the NBC Sports Network. What is not known is what kind of format there will be.
For example, will NBC Sports Network try to compete with the ESPN SportsCenter broadcasts? CNN tried, FOX Sports tried and both had their fare share of success, but neither was able to knock ESPN off of its perch for covering the world of sports news.
ESPN has been the stalwart and staple of sports news and innovative sports programs. Early on or middle on, ESPN was recognized as the premier sports broadcasters, showing multiple American college and pro sports as part of its primetime daily calendar of events.
Over the last few years, FOX sports, VERSUS and others have caught up to ESPN in terms of showing daily sports events, but these other networks have not been able to catch ESPN with original programming, including gameshows, media talking heads shows, documentaries, movies and classic sports moments.
VERSUS left some decent original programming to feed off of, but what is becoming clearer to sports viewers is that Soccer broadcasts will be the main priority for NBC Sports Network. It will try to demonstrate an extreme appreciation and recognition for Soccer in America.
NBC will broadcast 4 MLS matches this season (2 of the 4 will be playoff games), but NBC Sports Network will broadcast many more-38 games in regular season and 3 for the playoffs.
NBC looks to be all-in with their sports network and their sports network looks to be all-in with MLS. So, the question really is, how much will NBC promote MLS during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.
Some of the original programming not quite mastered yet by ESPN is pre-game coverage of MLS and weekly shows dedicated to MLS teams, players, coaches, executives, fans and strategies.
Is NBC Sports Network up to these challenges? Making this kind of original Soccer programming successful would be unique and the first mainstream ones of their kind.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com