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Versus is a sports-oriented cable television network in the United Statesmarker. It is owned by Comcast.

It was previously known as OLN until a name change on September 25, 2006. Formerly, OLN stood for Outdoor Life Network, and the name was licensed from Outdoor Life magazine. Under that name, the channel was launched in July 1995 and at the time focused almost exclusively on fishing, hunting, and other related outdoor sports.

In June 2008, Versus moved its operations from Stamford, Connecticutmarker to Comcast's headquarters in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker.

The OLN brand was retained in Canadamarker, and that channel continues to air some Versus programming but has kept its focus on outdoor sports and lifestyle programs to meet their CRTC licensing requirements.

Programming



Extreme sports

In July 2005, OLN revamped its image, focusing on more extreme outdoor sporting events. As noted by an OLN press release, its programming is "designed to be real, bold and awe-inspiring and supports our mission to bring to life the thrills, challenges and competition in the outdoors that our audience craves." In conjunction with the revamp, OLN's logo and website (in the USA) were completely redesigned as well. As part of the revamp, OLN acquired the rights from NBC Universal of the X Games-type Gravity Games as well as the rebroadcast rights to the CBS reality series Survivor, and began airing the series from the beginning of season one on July 24, 2005. Versus is also home to many Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and bull riding events.

Cycling

In 2004, OLN capitalized on the popularity of Lance Armstrong during the Tour de France, showing virtually nothing but Tour-related coverage for over three weeks. Their coverage of the Tour was hosted by Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Al Trautwig, and Bob Roll. Additional Tour-related programming included the reality shows The Lance Chronicles which focused on Armstrong's training for the Tour, and The Roadside Tour, following the Cutters, a particularly devoted group of Armstrong fans. This coverage was grouped under the title "The Cyclysm," which was meant to refer to Armstrong's effort to win a record sixth Tour de France. Versus marketed this with the line, "Someday, someone may ask you, 'Where were you during the Cyclysm?'" A year later, the network's coverage of the Tour was promoted as "Cyclysm II" as Armstrong went for his seventh consecutive maillot jaune, which he won. In 2008, Versus added more cycling to their schedule by showing major cycling tours year-round. Now on occasional Sundays throughout the year Versus will air stages from different races. They call this "Cyclysm Sunday."

Ice hockey

On August 17, 2005, ESPN chose not to match OLN's three-year, US$200 million offer for the NHL's U.S. cable TV rights. The NHL's deal with OLN parent Comcast also gives the company part ownership of a U.S. version of NHL Network, and distribution on all of its cable systems. Comcast also has the rights to simulcast out of market NHL games on its Comcast SportsNet stations. Both Comcast and the NHL have the right to void the final year of the contract.

During certain games of its first season covering the NHL, Versus simulcasted the CBC feed of NHL games, mostly those where teams from western Canadamarker were at home, but now typically does its own production of any game selected for broadcast.

On January 28, 2008, Versus and the NHL extended the deal through the 2010-11 season.

Auto Racing

On August 7, 2008, Versus announced a 10-year deal with the Indy Racing League to broadcast at least 13 IndyCar Series events a year in HD, beginning in 2009. Versus will also broadcast extensive pre-race coverage, a one-hour preview show the day before each race including qualifying highlights, qualifications for the Indianapolis 500marker, a Firestone Indy Lights weekly telecast, replays of all series races a week after original broadcast, and at least 10 hours of ancillary programming.. Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl, and Jon Beekhuis are on the broadcast team along with Jack Arute, Robbie Floyd, and Lindy Thackston in the pits. Terry Linger is the producer.

The network also broadcast various motorsports series on its Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour program such as USAC, ASA and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

In September 2009, Versus announced a weekly series on the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup entitled "Quest for the Sprint Cup" and intentions to explore opportunities for getting more NASCAR coverage.

Football

Versus currently airs College Football on Versus and College Football Central games from the Mountain West Conference. This relationship began before OLN rebranded to Versus with the September 9 game between Colorado Statemarker and Coloradomarker in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown. On June 6, 2007, it was announced that Versus has agreed to a multi-year deal with Fox Sports Net to sublicense up to 10 college games annually from the Pac-10 and Big 12 conferences totaling 19 scheduled college football games on Versus during 2007. For the 2008 season, they have added games from the Ivy League as well.

Early in 2006, OLN broadcast some games during the Arena Football League's 20th Anniversary season. Versus televised a weekly regular-season game for 11 weeks as well as a wild card playoff game. However, the agreement was not renewed, instead moving to ESPN.

In 2006, Versus bid on the NFL's new Thursday and Saturday night game package (for games that would air from Thanksgiving to the end of the season), however the NFL opted instead to put games on its own NFL Network.

Versus acquired the rights to the 96th Grey Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Football League.

Versus acquired the rights to the inaugural season of the United Football League.

Basketball

Versus added college basketball to its schedule for the 2006-07 season, as it secured the rights to broadcast eight men's Mountain West Conference basketball games, including the Conference Championship game. Versus also televised all eight games of the inaugural T-Mobile Invitational high school basketball tournament. During the 2008–2009 season Comcast SportsNet (Versus' sibling) acquired the rights to NBA Action as an incentive together with coverage of the select NBA teams at the selects regional areas, CSN decided to lend it to the Versus Network and the channel will air the show NBA Action nationally together with NBA TV every single week all season long.

Baseball

There had been reports in 2005 that Versus would take the Monday night, Wednesday night (plus most Wednesday afternoons), and Sunday night cable telecast rights to Major League Baseball games away from ESPN, but ESPN managed to work out a new deal allowing fewer local blackouts of Monday games (a major sticking point for ESPN). ESPN's other package, which includes a Thursday game, games on holidays, and Division Series playoff games, expired after the 2006 season and has been awarded to TBS, replacing the Thursday night games with a Sunday afternoon package. Versus had one last opportunity to acquire baseball rights, as one of either the American League or National League Championship Series was up for grabs (the other LCS was previously announced to air on Fox, MLB's incumbent network partner), but TBS won those rights as well.

Combat sports

Versus is beginning to program a variety of combat sports. In 2006, Versus entered the boxing arena with a series of fight programs promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank group. Versus also televises Chuck Norris's World Combat League, a kickboxing promotion where fights are contested in a unique round ring without ropes. Versus entered into a partnership with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) to bring mixed martial arts events to the network, with the first being broadcast live on June 3, 2007. Versus also entered into a partnership with MMA clothing line TapouT to air TapouT, a mixed martial arts reality television program which also debuted on June 3.

Track and Field (Athletics)

Versus, with NBC Sports and the World Championship Sports Network (now Universal Sports), broadcast coverage of the 2007 World Championships in Athletics from Osaka, Japan, as well as the 2009 World Championships in Athletics from Berlin, Germany.

Other sports

Versus has secured coverage for the 2007 America's Cupmarker, which was also a staple on ESPN and ESPN2 for years. OLN began to show qualifying regattas in late 2005. Versus aired the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers in 2007, and the America's Cup match between the Louis Vuitton winner and current champions, won by Alinghi of Switzerlandmarker in Valencia, Spainmarker. In 2006, it picked up American broadcast rights (in conjunction with The Tennis Channel) of Davis Cup events. In addition, the network has signed for a Saturday night "Game of the Week" for the National Lacrosse League starting with the 2006-07 season. Also in 2006, Versus began airing the Professional Darts Corporation's Holsten Premier League Darts starting in 2006. Versus has also added Major Indoor Soccer League games, and the USA Sevens, one of the eight tournaments that make up the IRB Sevens World Series, the top annual circuit in the sevens version of rugby union. In 2007, Versus aired coverage of the 2007 Sony Ericsson Championships from Madrid, Spain.

Other programs

Versus has also aired several sports movies, like Rocky III, The Big Lebowski and Miracle, as well as classic episodes of Survivor. and original programming shows like Sports Soup, TapOut, The Contender, Holy @#%*!, and Fanarchy.

Distribution

In October 2005, OLN elected not to provide its NHL coverage to a number of distributors, including EchoStar (Dish Network) and Cablevision, which both refused Comcast's request to place Versus on a much higher-penetration package. During this time, Versus blacked out NHL coverage on these systems, replacing them with other programming. It is believed that the reason behind these blackouts had to do with a penalty fee that Comcast would have had to pay the NHL if they did not significantly increase their distribution.

While Cablevision eventually came to an agreement making OLN/Versus available to any customer with digital cable, EchoStar retaliated by pulling OLN from its service; it was Dish Network's stance that few of its customers would be willing to have the channel if it meant raising rates. On April 24, 2006, the same date that OLN announced the late-September name change to Versus, Dish Network and OLN reached a long term agreement to restore the channel.

DirecTV carriage dispute

On August 18, 2009, DirecTV informed its customers that it may drop the channel after August 31 if a new carriage agreement isn't made with Comcast. Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV, said: "Versus' overall ratings are poor and have not increased nearly enough to justify what we're paying them, let alone the significant increase they're asking for. He added "It is a significant rate hike and the deal is discriminatory because Versus is not offering the same package options as other distributors."Versus responded in a statement released August 20 that said it has added "many marquee properties" and has become "the fastest-growing sports cable network in the country."The price cable systems pay is reportedly 18 cents per subscriber. The rate Versus is asking of DirecTV is unknown. DirecTV dropped the channel at midnight on September 1, replacing it with the message "Versus is no longer available on this channel. Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands. For more information go to www.directv.com/versus." DirecTV said it already pays Versus more than any other independent distributor and that the 20% hike it is seeking "for what is basically a paid programming and infomercial channel with occasional sporting events of interest is simply piggish. Comcast has set a market with arms length negotiations with these other distributors and DirecTV expects equal treatment. But we want them to understand that we must hold the line on programming costs and protect them from unwarranted price increases, especially in this challenging economy."

Versus responded by saying "On behalf of millions of passionate sports fans, we are disappointed that DirecTV has chosen to remove Versus from its service and deny their subscribers access to our all-encompassing coverage of the sports they love. Since our last deal with DirecTV, Versus has added many marquee properties and has become one of the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country. Versus offered DirecTV a fair and reasonable offer to carry the network at the market price. We hope DirecTV will make the right decision for their customers and put Versus back on the air." The next day they said the dispute is about placement, not prices. "DirecTV wanted to take Versus away from 6 million subscribers who were receiving it for no additional cost. That was simply not acceptable for us. We hope to resolve things amicably, but that's a non-starter." Those increases aren't true," said Davis. "We're simply asking them to pay what the other providers are paying." He added "If the quote-unquote 'leader in sports' considers the Stanley Cup playoffs and Lance Armstrong's comeback as paid programming and infomercials, then I think the average fan knows they're not the real 'leader in sports.' That's an insult to all the fans of those sports." Versus reportedly charges 27 to 29 cents per subscriber.

Versus launched a national newspaper ad on September 4 saying "Worthless: That's what DirecTV thinks of the sports you love". It then urges DirecTV customers to switch providers.

DirecTV has set up a special email address for customers to voice their opinions on the matter at versus@directv.com.

Miscellaneous Notes

On the time/score bar on the top of the screen, the "VS." circular logo is in the middle of the screen. This contrasts with the location used by other networks, which is on one end of the bar or the other. Thus, the bar can be read, "(Team A)" "Versus" "(Team B)," which reflects the network's name. Also, the Versus logo is seen between the two teams in the college basketball time/score bar at the bottom of the screen.

Versus' network promos currently feature "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria, along with the tagline "Competition is Life, Live to Compete: It's on Versus."

Versus HD

Versus HD is a 1080i high definition simulcast of Versus that launched in January 2007. Formerly in some markets Versus shared an HD channel slot with sister network Golf Channel which programmed based on the priority of each network's event; this channel was known as VS./Golf HD. As of December 8, 2008, both channels are now only distributed individually in high definition, and both carry HD content simultaneously.

Previous to the launch of the channel's HD feed, some Versus programming in the HD format was seen on the now-defunct INHD channels.

See also



References

External links




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