The NBC Sports Group announced Monday that Versus will be renamed the NBC Sports Network, effective Jan. 2, 2012.
The move is part of a new strategy to bring all four tiers of the sports group's assets -- broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital -- into a consistent framework of branding. In addition, the NBC Sports Group will implement a redesigned NBC Sports logo.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, made the rebranding announcement Monday at the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles.
The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform for NBC Sports' heritage of storytelling, best-in-class production and broad promotional power. Many NBC Sports production and programming elements have already been introduced on Versus since the merger -- such as adopting the “Inside the Glass” production philosophy for all its NHL games, and adding horse racing and Notre Dame football-related programming.
Viewers can expect to see more changes in the future.
"This effort is a major step towards a complete strategic alignment of all our platforms and businesses," Lazarus said. "This is more than just a name change for Versus -- it's a complete repositioning of the brand to provide value for marketers, consumers as well as all our affiliates and distributors. We want anyone who comes into contact with any of our assets to immediately connect with the NBC Sports brand promise."
The new NBC Sports logo features an evolutionary design that maintains the equity of the classic NBC Sports logo, while signaling something new. Changes include a slightly larger peacock, a new font for the letters "NBC" to put them in balance with the peacock, and a new hand-lettered font for the scripted word "Sports" that was created exclusively for NBC Sports.
"The re-brand effort afforded us the opportunity to modernize the NBC Sports logo," said John Miller, chief marketing officer of NBCUniversal Television Group and head of the NBC Sports Agency. "The changes are subtle but signal a big change: a new beginning for the NBC Sports Group."
Jan. 2, 2012, was chosen as the rebranding date for several reasons, including the number of strategic events with large viewing audiences on NBC within a short time frame that can be used to call attention to the rebranding efforts.
On Jan. 1, the NFL's regular season will conclude with the Week 17 "Sunday Night Football" matchup just hours prior to the rebrand. On Jan. 2, the NHL Winter Classic on NBC will allow for significant cross-promotion with the newly named NBC Sports Network. On Jan. 7, the NBC Sports Group will utilize its NFL Wild Card doubleheader coverage to drive rebrand awareness. On Feb. 5, 2012, Super Bowl XLVI, the most-watched program of the year, will provide an unprecedented opportunity for cross-promotion between NBC and the NBC Sports Network.
The rebranding efforts are a continuation of branding initiatives that began as soon as the NBC Sports Group was formed. In February it was announced that all golf broadcasts on NBC would be re-branded as "Golf Channel on NBC." In April, NBCSports.com absorbed Versus.com to create a single online destination for fans.
NBC Sports Group's regional sports networks are not currently scheduled to be rebranded. However, Lazarus said "many will evolve to have the look and feel of our NBC Sports brand and production values."