Since Versus stopped being OLN and stopped being simply a purveyor of fishing and outdoor sports, the now-key NHL network really hasn’t been picked up by cable companies as much as you would think. Luckily, Versus is poised on the brink of a name change once again, and this time that change should ensure the channel will be more dominant in sports coverage.

On Monday, January 2nd, Comcast-owned Versus will become NBC Sports Network. Since Comcast now owns NBC Universal, getting the big-four network involved with the cable channel should help NBC Sports Network continue to improve its programming. The name change will take place at 4 p.m. on the second, which will be pretty strange for those watching throughout the day. According to The Boston Herald, the move comes none too soon: switching to NBC Sports Network will ensure the brand new version of Versus will get to host the NHL Winter Classic postgame show, featuring Bob Costas. The earlier Flyers versus Rangers game will still play on NBC.

With a bigger name likely comes a bigger budget, and NBC sports president of programming John Miller says a new plan for the network has been in the works for a while:

(The plan is) to try to create a sports network that we could all be proud of but would be representative of what the NBC Sports brand has come to represent -- which is high-quality production, really good story telling and a real respect for the viewer as well as the property we are in business with.

Seventy-six million cable subscribers will be privy to NBC Sports Network on opening day. By increasing new programming, adding some Olympics coverage, and cutting some of its less popular programming like Sports Jobs and Whacked Out Sports, NBC Sports Network hopes to get picked up by more viewers as the months go by.

Which is fine by me, as long as NBC Sports Network plans to replace its crappy intermission NHL commentators.

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