Sunday, January 27, 2013
Repost: NBC Sports Invades ESPN's Backyard
Right now, it's just a big ugly building sitting on 32 acres of land in Stamford, CT. All that is about to change. Only 65 miles down the road from ESPN, the new powerhouse in the sports TV industry is setting up shop. NBC Sports is coming to town and taking over the site of a former Clairol hair dye factory.
This week a panel of dignitaries including Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy announced a blockbuster economic agreement that will consolidate the various companies now housed under the NBC Sports umbrella in one location. It is a very big addition to the TV sports landscape.
The logo above represents the new name for the VERSUS network starting in January. Make no mistake about it, the NBC Sports Network is a fully-funded effort by the Comcast Corporation to grow their own in-house version of ESPN. Comcast recruited top executives, filled their war chests with Comcast subscriber cash and has now put down roots.
Mark Lazarus is the Chairman of the newly-formed NBC Sports Group. "Our plan (in Stamford) is to redo the administration space, to build what we think is a work environment that is cool and sports-like," Lazarus said. "We will create an open area, an inclusive environment and a place that is conducive to creative output. The equipment that comes in here that will allow us to send sports television and digital media out to the world will be second-to-none, state-of-the-art and we're thrilled to do that here."
There are lots of NBC-themed companies that will be setting up shop in Stamford in addition to VERSUS. They include the NBC Sports group, NBC's Olympic division, NBC Sports Digital and the Comcast Sports Management Group that oversees 11 Comcast Sports regional TV networks. In addition, the NHL Network will also build studios on the site as it continues a ten-year partnership with NBC.
NASCAR fans may remember VERSUS televising selected NASCAR Whelen Modified Races a while back in a TV package that featured SPEED's Jimmy Spencer in the TV booth. VERSUS continues to be the home of the vast majority of the IndyCar Series races. Lazarus confirmed that the new Stamford studios would be the home of IndyCar, college football and Olympic studio production in addition to multiple sports talk shows.
While the facility will not be up and running for over a year, the Stamford commitment from the "new look" NBC Sports Group could be huge for NASCAR. SPEED has recently confirmed with its new TV programming orders that no new NASCAR TV series are on the horizon. That certainly did not sit well with the Charlotte-based NASCAR Media Group (NMG).
The TV production arm of the sport has been searching for new strategic partners. There is little doubt that the NBC Sports Network is going to need a big block of original programming to compliment the live sports coverage at night and on the weekends. The current NASCAR TV partners have been of little help in this regard.
FOX is an over-the-air broadcast network and carries no additional NASCAR programming. TNT has been steadfastly refusing any additional NASCAR TV series for years. That group is six races and done. ESPN has now pushed the NASCAR Now series back to early afternoon and cancelled the later re-airing, essentially killing off the weekday shows.
The NBC Sports Network could potentially partner with NMG in carrying original reality or race footage-based new TV series. There are tons of TV series concepts flying around, but none have gained even a toehold with the current TV partners.
The long-term strategic move of NBC Sports to Stamford could also signal a renewed interest in perhaps luring the company back to televising NASCAR racing. Next year the sport will begin negotiations with interested parties to discuss the top three national touring series. The current TV contracts expire at the end of the 2014 season.
There have been no statements from NBC about an interest in racing coverage, but it's been obvious that the company has been involved in much more fundamental pursuits including building a base of operations. Right now, NASCAR can wait.
It's certainly interesting to consider that by the time 2014 rolls around and the current contracts are over, NBC may present a tremendously powerful combination of broadcast, cable and digital distribution options that could seem very attractive to NASCAR.
If Mr. Lazarus expresses an interest in joining the upcoming round of NASCAR TV negotiations, we will certainly pass that information along. One item to clarify for TDP readers is that NBC was not the mystery player featured in the "New Potential Player In NASCAR TV Negotiations" post from late July. That should keep some folks talking about the topic in general for a while longer.
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