directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Versus growing up

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Versus growing up

Some interesting developments regarding the cable partner of the NHL.

Versus has just announced that they will be televising 13 IRL (Indy Racing League) racing events next season. ABC will retain the television rights to the Indianapolis 500 as well as 4 other selected races.

In addition Versus has announced that it will expand its College Football coverage to 23 games next season accross 4 conferences.

VERSUS, the network that celebrates real competition, will televise 23 college football games during the 2008 season, up from 19 games in 2007 and nine in 2006. The schedule includes eight games in the Mountain West Conference and five games from each the Pac-10, Big 12 and Ivy League conferences. For the first time since college football began airing in 2006, the network will launch VERSUS College Football Central, which includes a dedicated halftime show during each game called the Sears Halftime Report as well as pre and post-game shows on select telecasts. The studio shows, hosted by Ted Robinson and Roland Williams, will originate from the network’s HD studio in Stamford, Conn.

VERSUS will kick-off its 2008 college football schedule on Saturday, August 30, with a Mountain West Conference showdown between TCU and New Mexico at 6 p.m. ET. The network’s entire college football schedule is available on, however key games include several pre-season ranked teams such as UCLA at BYU (9/13), BYU at TCU (10/16), USC at Stanford (11/15) and Oregon at Oregon State (11/29) as well as the 125th anniversary of “The Game” between Yale at Harvard game on Nov. 22.

Why am I posting this on a hockey blog?

When the NHL first annoucned it was leaving ESPN to join the "Outdoor Life Network" (which was later renamed to "Versus") the league was down right roasted by the mouthpieces in the media - specifically some of the blow hard egomaniacs at ESPN (go figure) with their "can't find it" hot air which is complete nonsense in the world of HD, hundreds of channels and buitl in cable box guides.

Fast forward 4 years later and the league's ratings are back to where they were during the ESPN days, they are being treated as commodity instead of as "filler" and the network is growing, growing & growing.

I was always in favor of the move even though I think everyone realized the league would take a short term hit in the ratings (and lets be honest here hockey has never and probably never will generate mega ratings south of the boarder). I was completely disgusted with ESPN's doormat treatment of the league and the backhanded shots it took on a daily basis from its "experts".

We all are well aware that the NFL is king. ESPN reminds us of that everyday (well of that and what Brett Farve jersey he's speculated to wear next). We know their priorities lie in football/baseball/basketball/Nascar. I'm not asking for or justifying that the NHL should get more coverage than those leagues. What I am asking for is that a television network respect their properties and do what they can to help grow it. Not take pot shots at it and beguile it at any and every opportunity.

ESPN needs competition as they have grown way to big for their britches -- leagues that aren't getting their fair shake, like the NHL, need alternatives -- Versus is giving them that.

Sure Versus had its challenges in that first year with plenty of glitches to work out but since then they have steadily improved their broadcasts, promoted the league in a fair and appropriate way and now are expanding their programming with the addition of college football games and IRL races to join the NHL, Tour De France, WEC, The Contender and Pro Bull Riding.

There are still plenty of improvements I'd like to see Versus make including a complete overhaul of their web site, the addition of more sports properties (although rapid growth could end up with the NHL getting lost in the shuffle) and the continued expansion of their footprint (currently said to be at 76 million homes). I'd also like to see them add a hockey highlights show and the rumors are that that is coming maybe as soon as this season (woot!).

They are getting there though and believe me other leagues are and will notice their treatment of their sports properties....and at the end of the day Versus is backed by the deep pockets of Comcast and if you've got the money and a sensible vision you can be a player in the TV game.

Discuss - are you happy with Versus or would you prefer to go back to ESPN?



WALLY said...

I have rabbit ears, so I'm screwed either way. I got to watch the very first CBJ game, and the odd game on Sunday afternoons in till the 4th game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. My life sucks.

drewdawg said...

I have insight cable and as far as I know the only way to get versus is to pay an extra 12$ for an add on. For me this doesn't make sense for just one channel. Hopefuly enough people recognize what they are missing and demand that versus become part of a standard package [i.e. the big ten network] Until then I guess I'll be forced to watch anything like the all star break on

Max said...

I like Versus. Sure their coverage is a little suspect sometimes (Doc Emmerick and Pierre McGuire I'm looking at you) but when you get right down to it, we're getting two extra games a week, with decent coverage, and no disrespect. If you guys get HD channels, check out HDNet. They show games on Thursday and Saturday, and they give away an autographed jersey during every single game.

Also, I agree, ESPN has gotten way too big for it's britches. IMHO quality has gone way down in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

espn has become the "mtv" of sports. remember back in the day when they used to show"sports"? They can shove that basketball straight up their butts!


Matt said...

Versus is certainly getting better, but I do kinda wish that at least a few games a week were still on ESPN.

OTOH, I also think the worst moment in ESPN history was canceling NHL2Nite with John Buccigross. :D

I do think the HDNet coverage is really nice. Their booth guys aren't always on their A-Game (or B-Game...) but they must bring their own equipment in with them, because games look so much better, even comparing a Fox HD feed to the HDNet feed, that it isn't even funny.

If there's one thing I'd really love in the US, it would be for more of the Canadian sports networks to have agreements down here.

I'm sure most Canadian fans grumble about having to flip between TSN, CBC, and the various flavours of SportsNet to get hockey coverage, but all those networks also seems to lead to a lot more compettion, and that means better quality product for the viewers!

Anonymous said...

DREWDAWG'S COMMENT is most significant here and merits, I believe, some concerted hockey fan and LTL ACTION. Insight serves approximately one-third of households in the near-Columbus area; this is sigificant, most significant. As an individual, I have several times complained to Insight and asked them to include VS in the basis offerings--but to no avail. An organized effort is clearly. My I suggest that such an effort be launched/spearheaded by LTL. If Insight were to receive a hundred or so complaints in a given week, then maybe they would take some action.

mike said...

I have never visited VS.' website, but regarding hockey it cannot possibly be worse than ESPN's hockey coverage online. Scott Burnside is horrible, and yet he seems to dominate most of the articles, barely anything from Hradek, Frei, etc.. As far as television, perhaps it wouldn't be too much to ask if they could expand the schedule and not just show hockey every monday and tuesday. For the college student if you have classes in the way of those days you're screwed, unless u can get by with watching the CBJ at all possible moments. That is nice to do, at least when they do not go to hell in some stretches.

LTL said...

I wasn't aware that Insight did not offer Versus. One way to change that is to send in formal complaints but another way is to take your business elsewhere --- I know I'd have Direct TV on speed dial if Time Warner didn't offer the following:

1. FSN Ohio (basic)
2. NHL Center Ice
3. Versus (basic)
5. NHL Network

I gotta have my hockey and pay extra for #s 2/4/5 which I understand. If TW is available I would highly suggest changing b/c at FSN and Versus are on basic cable there. If not Direct TV offers some very good package deals and some folks like satelite much more than cable providers anyhow.

Anything I can do here to help motivate Inisight to see the "light" I'm all for.


markislander said...

I agree with LTL i had WOW cable and they were not going to have the NHL center ice package so i had to go with Time Warner, have to have my hockey they have it all.