Watchdog

Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

NBC Sports Network versus ESPN?

Immediately after the conclusion of Monday’s NHL Winter Classic, NBC will flip the switch on Versus and magically turn it into NBC Sports Network, a rebranding that is the buzz of the sports media world.

But Jon Miller, its president of programming, wants to get one thing straight before you ask, which you will: No, the goal is not to take on ESPN, at least not in the short term.

“I try to disabuse people of that, only because of this: ESPN has an 11,000-day start,’’ he said. “They are the gold standard. They do a tremendous job. I’m a fan, OK?

“I kind of chuckle in the sense people think we’re going to get there right away. We’re not. What we are going to be is a good alternative. We’re going to be a place people go to watch good quality TV.’’

One focus clearly will be the NHL, to which both NBC and Versus – Comcast-owned sister stations – have rights. Also, there will be a tighter branding focus, and less of the outdoors programming for which Versus has been known.

“It’s daunting, it’s exciting, it’s challenging,’’ Miller said. “But I think we’re going to put a really good product on the air that people are going to gravitate toward. It’s going to take some time. I ask people to be patient.’’

Tags: NBC , Versus

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