Monday, December 5, 2011

NBC Sports and the .Something Channels

As the off/silly season of discontent lingers on it seems that March is soo far away that it will never get here.  To pass the time we are focused on the usual offseason speculation about teams and drivers.  To this we can add additional drama concerning the schedule, as it seems that this year, events have their own extended silly season. Good news about new engine manufacturers is tempered by questions of balance in the new chassis.
Another Important change is coming to IndyCar within the next month. IndyCar’s primary cable partner, Versus, will undergo a major makeover to become the NBC Sports Channel.  Additional focus and brand recognition of the channel itself along with cross pollination/promotion with more prominent and popular sporting events could be a boon for IndyCar.
Something that would be even more beneficial would be if this new channel, NBC Sports, were distributed across the additional bandwidth that the Digital conversion of broadcast TV brought.  If you only watch cable or satellite, you may have missed it.  But if you have an HDTV ready TV or purchased a HD conversion box for your older TV set, you no longer have just five TV channels, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and FOX.  You now have “Child” or .something channels.  In Indy for example channel 13 is no longer just channel 13, it is now channel 13.1, 13.2 and 13.3.  Additional bandwidth for local TV franchises to offer additional programming to keep pace with cable distributors.
To date, this additional bandwidth has not been used that effectively.  In Indy, we have 5 of these 10 new channels devoted to either a loop of the local weather broadcast or radar (Which is REALY boring on a sunny summer day).  The best application I have seen utilizing this additional Bandwidth is 6.2 which broadcasts a new local channel “Hometown Sports Network” that broadcasts local High School sports.  At some point I expect that some of these channels will pick up Spanish broadcasting like Telemundo. 
For this post I was scrolling through my .something channels just to see what was there…and much to my surprise on 13.3 amidst the endless streams of Informercials, I saw a promo that this was the Universal Sports channel, branded with the peacock and all.  Universal sports is not new, it has bounced around my satellite services for three or so years featuring as I recall, lots of Olympic trials and cycling.  While very few people know it exists, It is getting rolled into Versus to become the NBC Sports channel. 
Imagine this…what if the NBC Sports channel was content that was delivered through one of the .something digital channels in every local NBC affiliate?  Every household in America could potentially have access to all the programming on this newly relaunched channel…Including IndyCar.  No more cable satellite provider squabbles with no more contractual black outs where providers failed to come to new contract terms.  No more inclusion only on “Premium Tiers”.
Of course the obstacle here would be all the local affiliates would need to be convinced that the content on this new channel had better ad revenue potential than Skytrac Radar relative to the costs of the content.  Likewise the viewers would have to know these channels existed and those accustomed to cable would have to know to attach an antenna to one of the input portals and use the TV/Video button on their remotes to move off the cable or Xbox feed to where these channels were.
I have no Idea if this is in the Launch plans for the NBC Sport channel, but what a boon it would be for IndyCar to have universal distribution for every race it broadcasts…


  1. This is a very cool concept, but the drawback comes from not everyone being able to connect an antenna to their media box any longer. I have an antenna that's doing nothing but catching wind because my newer DirecTV box doesn't even have an input for a traditional aerial, and the .something channels aren't included in the local channels package at any tier. :(

  2. The biggest win if the local affiliates have the opportunity to pick up NBC Sports is with people who only have the broadcast channels. Getting around "premium Tiers" or blackouts is a bonus. Just given the number of available options for antenna vs cable, the channel share of people wathcing over antenna will be bigger and boost the overall rating more.

    For people with Media boxes, either cable or satellite...After the resident IT/AV specialist in the house (@mrsjpindycar) got done with the TV, there is an HDMI (or VGA) cable from the box to the TV. Then the Antenna coax runs to the coax port on the TV. The TV/Input button is used to navigate between the Antennae/Satellite/Wii/BlueRay feeds on the TV.

  3. You, presumably, have a newer TV that has an HD tuner built in. My TV, although it is capable of 1080i HD, is old enough that it does not have an HD tuner (or HDMI for that matter). I'm stuck. :( That's what I get for getting a Mitsubishi TV that was going to keep on working for decades. :)


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