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Versus To Become NBC Sports January 2nd

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If you think it's merely a re-brand, you're wrong (although it is also a re-brand). According to published reports, the current NBC Universal property and sports channel Versus will change it's name and image on January 2nd to NBC Sports. The new logo is featured above. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal adds critical details about the re-brand campaign:

The name change, which has been rumored for much of the last year, is timed to coincide with NBC’s broadcast of the NHL Winter Classic and the run-up to NBC’s February telecast of Super Bowl XLVI.

"Our goal is for anyone who sees the name or logo of one of our assets to immediately connect with NBC Sports," said NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus. He will officially announce the name change today at the Television Critics Association tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.

NBC’s other sports channels will not be part of this rebranding. Golf Channel will keep its name, which already has been integrated into NBC’s golf telecasts ("Golf Channel on NBC").

...

"These rebranding efforts are a major step toward a complete strategic alignment of all our platforms and businesses," Lazarus said.

As you likely know, the UFC hosts four fights a year on Versus as part of their 2011 deal. The ratings for programming on Versus have been comparatively good, although fallen far short of what similar events pull in for live UFC events on Spike TV.

It isn't altogether clear what this means for the UFC, although there is some elevation of the brand given the channel's makeover. But we should be mindful this isn't merely a facelift for the NBC property. By aligning the NBC brand in name with the channel, it would be natural to expect a change in programming with more hands on control from the network. In fact, the debut event for the re-launch is the NHL Winter Classic, a program that aired on NBC proper last year. Versus already features NHL content, but this is marquee NHL content aimed at boosting the overall level of high-value programming on the channel. If NBC plans on segmenting off sports content previously housed on the larger television property, that foretells an overall strategic realignment about what that channel is, what it will offer and who it will target. Let's hope UFC content is part of the plan.