Versus is Dead, Long Live . . .

NBC Sports Network:

The NBC Sports Group launches the NBC Sports Network at 4 PM ET on January 2nd to replace Versus, which had been Comcast’s bullriding and gunshooting and cycling channel pre-NBC Universal merger. The new strategy is to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into "a consistent framework of branding".

The historical importance of Versus (née Outdoor Life Network) to US-based fans of cycling can't be overstated. Whatever one might think of the quality of Versus' coverage of pro cycling, it was putting it on American television screens before anyone had ever even thought about streaming race coverage online.

How NBC Sports Network will co-exist with (the commonly-owned) Universal Sports isn't yet clear, when it comes to cycling programming. If - as reported - NBC really does want to take a run at ESPN's dominance with NBC Sports Network, something tells me that cycling isn't going to get all that much attention there.

While hardcore fans in the US with fast connections might not really care too much about television carriage of pro cycling, that carriage (or lack thereof) has an enormous impact on what a team can offer potential sponsors. So lets hope that someone at NBC Sports Network cares enough about cycling to push their coverage beyond the Tour de France (or that Universal Sports doesn't die a slow death due to lack of cable carriage . . . ).

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