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.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. We simply ask that you stay on the topic, refrain from any profanity or hateful speech and do not post links to other website stories. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

19 comments:

MRM4 said...

Regardless whether NBC gets into NASCAR or not, ESPN needs some competition. They run too much of sports as it is. But until NBC gets something other than the IRL, Notre Dame football, and Sunday Night Football, they won't be considered a serious player. Hope that changes even if they are owned by Comcast.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GinaV24 said...

I agree with MRM4, competition between the networks to produce some GOOD racing based programming is needed.

Of course, NASCAR has also shot themselves in the foot with their current "product" which isn't interesting enough to hold the attention of most of us fans.

I really like programming like "the day" that has shown up on Speed but if JD hadn't brought it to my attention, I wouldn't have even thought to look at Speed for any programming.

2014 may be too late to save NASCAR.

Bill said...

Thank you Clairol, for having your old hair dye factory less than a parsec away from the Mothership.

AncientRacer said...

The Comcast version of NBC seems to be reversing the tendency of the GE version by decentralizing out of Manhattan. They had some sports ops. in Stamford so now they are moving it all out there (and the State is helping). On the other side of the coin there is talk about moving MSNBC, Bravo and some other pieces of the Peacock to, or back to, Fort Lee, NJ where only CNBC is now and that may happen particulary if NJ helps which they well might. Nothin' sacred about NY.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Unless I'm mistaken, WWE is headquartered in Stamford ...looks to me like we're in for a "Smackdown" ...welcome news none too soon, eh?
Walter

The Mad Man said...

I wouldn't be surprised if NMG moved next door to the WWE headquarters so they could borrow their writers on a regular basis to create "interesting" storylines for the races instead of what's currently being served up. Of course, even with the WWE writing the storylines, the race results would still be the same, especially at the plate and cookie cutter tracks. Snooze-apalooza! Maybe a body slam or two after the race in Victory Lane could raise the ratings up some? Just kidding. The ratings will continue to stagnate under the current scheme of things through the end of the current TV contracts.

The consolidation of NBC Sports has the potential to knock both Faux and BSPN off the podium providing they're willing to listen to what the fans and places like The Daly Planet have to say. Imagine having race coverage without the constant bias towards Toyota & HMS, brand bashing by DW, and shilling we get from February through November.

Hopefully Comcast is checking out what we have to say and makes plans accordingly.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

J.D., Planeteers,

I just did a Google Maps search for "Stamford, Connnecticut, Clairol." It turns out the new facilities are very close to CNBC and MSNBC in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

The Clairol campus is hard by the Connecticut Turnpike, which leads directly to New York City and Philadelphia, where Comcast has its headquarters.

Because it's less than an hour from New York City, ESPN HQ in Bristol, and NBC's other facilities, this makes it easy to recruit on-air talent and technical personnel without having to pay hefty relocation costs.

It's also close to Stamford and LaGuardia International Airports.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Bill said...

ESPN has a special segment called "Breakfast with the Biff" that airs during the Sunday morning version of NASCAR Now. I think SPEED should capitalize on that clever idea this Saturday, as they prepare to televise a quite unusual early morning practice session (8:30 am ET).

Instead of using the driver of the #16 Roush-Fenway car, and as this weekend's race is at Martinsville, how about SPEED feature the Virginia driver who has also won several races at this track over the past few years. They could call it "Breakfast at Denny's."

GinaV24 said...

LOL, Bill, that is such an awful pun. Breakfast at Denny's!

my veri word was cringe, ironic don't you think

Jonathan said...

This reminds me of the story you posted about a few months back with some other tv station you said was fixing to get big??? I dont know but unless the NBC Sports gig gets up and running fast I just dont see enough time for them to get Nascar, tv contracts will be signed way before 2014 so maybe were jumping the gun a bit here? I dont know what to think of this heck im still pissed this may be the last weekend with Speed so who knows it is what it \\is

Jonathan said...

oh and does anyone know the ratings from Talladega cant find them anywhere???

AncientRacer said...

@Jonathan

The Cup race placed 12 (live+Same Day Recorded) on the top 25 Cable list for last week. Here are he numbers:
12. NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Live ESPN SUNDAY 2:00 PM
4,077m

Anonymous said...

hey west coast kenny
stamford and ft lee are not real close...in terms of practicality

at rush hour it would take your 90 mins to 2 hours at minimum to go door to door, plus about $ 15 in tolls

m
imho, this $100m investment is idiotic on comcast part

you dont have to be "down the street" to shoot across the bow of a competitior

more ego driven bullsheet from the immature punks at comcast

Mike said...

NBC needs to get back in the TV Structure for the sake of NASCAR and the ratings. NBC is basically seen everywhere so you know that would equal ratings improvements. Since TNT doesn't want to do anything other than the races, cut them out, give FOX more races, shorten ESPN and let the Chase go to NBC.

FOX
February - End of June

ESPN
July Daytona- Through Bristol in August

NBC
Labor Day Through Homestead

Vicky D said...

This is surprising to me doing this at my old stomping grounds in Connecticut. The next thing I'm waiting for is Dick Ebersole to take over then it would really be something. Always changes coming to networks!

Anonymous said...

West Coast Kenny-

Just a few notes. There is no Stamford Intl Airport. There is an airport in White Plains, NY just over the Greenwich, CT border which is about a 15 minute car ride to Stamford. LGA is about 30 minutes from Stamford. Fort Lee, NJ is about an hour away by car...as long as you do not hit traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway...yea, right!

The location is right off Exit 9 of I-95 which happens to be about a 5 minute walk from the WWE headquarters. It is also a 45 minute train ride into NYC.

ESPN is an hour and a half north of Stamford.

Also in Stamford is what was Group W. Network Services now called Encompass which is where Speed(vision) started out and is a major broadcast transmission hub. The YES Network and a few others are also located in Stamford.

Chelsea Piers which is the new owner of the site is also building a sports complex on the property that will include ice rinks etc.

Anonymous said...

NBC was horrible the last time it aired NASCAR. They replaced Alan Bestwick as the race announcer with Jerry Springer for Gosh sake. Maybe they are wiser now but I know I was very glad they disappeared from NASCAR a few years ago. I know it was not Jerry Springer but Bill Weber probably knew less NASCAR than Springer and was far less entertaining.