SBD/February 3, 2011/Media

Versus To Remain In Philadelphia, But Will Get NBC-Themed Name

Versus "will stay in Philadelphia" following the joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal, according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Some Comcast employees "had been concerned that Versus -- or even the regional sports networks -- might relocate to New York after control of the businesses was taken over" by NBCU. Meanwhile, NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol yesterday said that he "expected to bolster Versus by acquiring the rights to more sports for it, though he declined to say which sports." Ebersol also indicated that the company "would change the Versus name to some variation reflecting the NBC brand, but he said the change was months away" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/3). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reported NBC Sports’s golf programming "will be rebranded 'The Golf Channel on NBC,' and some of its on-air talent will appear on the Golf Channel" (NYTIMES.com, 2/2).

SOME VERSUS OFFICIALS OUT
: NBC Sports continues to assert its dominance over the NBC Sports Group, with at least three more Versus execs being told that they no longer have jobs at the network. Sources tell THE DAILY that the network's coordinating producer for NHL games, Mike Baker, and Senior VP & Exec Producer Leon Schweir were told that they will not be returning to the network. It is not known if Baker or Schweir will assume other roles within Comcast. Their duties will be overseen by NBC Sports execs Jon Miller, who was promoted to president of programming for NBC Sports and Versus, and Sam Flood, who was promoted to executive producer of NBC Sports and Versus. On the digital side, Versus VP/Digital Media Neal Scarbrough also has been told that he will not be returning with the network. On Tuesday, Versus President Jamie Davis was told that he would not be returning to the net. So far, it appears that all of the layoffs from the combined company have come from Versus execs; THE DAILY has not heard of any that have come from NBC Sports, to date. Baker has been with the channel since '05, coming over when the channel was named OLN and it first picked up NHL rights. Versus hired Scarbrough in the fall of '08, and it hired Schweir in the spring of '09 from Big Ten Network (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

BULLISH ON NEW GROUP: Ebersol yesterday announced the executive leadership of the newly formed NBC Sports Group, and he said of the moves, "Our great strength is the programming, production, marketing and relationship orientation of NBC Sports. The people being moved into all these roles are people who have had great success at that." He also said it will take "18 months to two years to blend more and more talent across" Comcast and NBC Sports. The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir noted Ebersol named former Turner Entertainment Group President Mark Lazarus President of NBC Sports Cable Group and promoted NBC Sports Senior VP/Strategic Marketing, Promotion & Communications Mike McCarley to President of Golf Channel. Ebersol said Lazarus understands aspects of cable television "that are not replicated in our business." McCarley "has not run a network before," but Ebersol said he has the marketing skills "to make the Golf Channel go pop" (NYTIMES.com, 2/2).
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Versus, Comcast Corp., NBC, Media

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