Versus’ President, Jamie Davis, talked with the Washington Times recently, and had some interesting things to say about the direction of the network. Among the highlights were discussions about the NHL, and rights that they’re trying to acquire, but the most interesting part was the comparison to ESPN. Not only does Davis not agree with the comparison, but he flat out said that Versus isn’t interested in copying the “Leader’s” model….

A lot of people look at Versus and compare it to ESPN. That may not necessarily be fair, but I’m wondering what the biggest challenges have been so far in getting the viewership and distribution up to that level.

First, I want to be clear that we’re not trying to become ESPN. They do a great job, but that’s not what we want to become. We are trying to serve a fan base that we believe has been underserved in the past, which is to take certain sports and jump thigh-deep into them and really serve them. We’re in over 75 million households; we were in 60 million households when we were the Outdoor Life Network. So the migration has rapidly allowed us to extend our reach. Versus is available to everyone across the country…we weren’t like that before, and I think it’s because now we’ve extended our offering. It’s become a more broad offering to sports fans and therefore more sports fans have expressed a desire to get Versus. We also launched in December our 24/7 HD channel. Versus HD is in 16 million households already and is continuing to grow.

Obviously there are pros and cons when it comes to competing with ESPN, the main one being that you’re starting a race about 100 laps down, but it’s about time that someone took a stab at it. Part of the problem with ESPN in recent years was their sheer lack of accountability due to the fact that they’re a monopoly. People don’t have any other options, so they know they’re not going anywhere. Obviously that has changed for the better over the past few years, but another player on their level would make the landscape even better. Competition breeds quality and responsibility.

The article is a good piece about a growing network, and you should check it out if you have the time.

Versus’ Jamie Davis (Washington Times)

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