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 better to compete with Disney’s ESPN and Fox Sports. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform, according to Jon Miller, the president of programming for NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network: “We have three tranches of programming that we’re looking to put on NBC Sports Network starting with live events, live games, and big-league relationships. The second tranche is original news, talk and conversation. The third tranche is the original programming we’ve developed with the NHL around shows like NHL 36, with the NFL like NFL Turning Point, and with the Bob Costas show that will be breaking this year, Costas Tonight, as well as the Costas Town Halls. We’ll embrace the brands that are already associated with NBC Sports like the Triple Crown. We’ve added the MLS to our portfolio. We have a strong and robust relationship with the Tour de France. And then we will obviously have an extensive Olympic presence come June, July, and August with the Olympic trials, then actually live Olympic programming throughout the game.”

Highlights of NBC Sports Group’s January 2 Schedule (all times are ET:
7:30 AM: VERSUS Replay of 2010 NHL Winter Classic
10 AM: VERSUS Replay of 2011 NHL Winter Classic
1 PM: NBC 2012 NHL Winter Classic
3 PM: VERSUS NBC Sports: A Storied History
4 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game (from Philadelphia)
4:30 PM: NBC Sports Network Cold War on Ice: 1972 Summit Series
6 PM: NBC Sports Network NBC SportsTalk
7:30 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Pre-Game
8 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL: San Jose at Vancouver
10:30 PM: NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game
11 PM: NBC Sports Network Replay of NBC SportsTalk
12:30 AM: NBC Sports Network NHL Overtime