Comcast anticipates only a gradual buildup of its new NBC Sports Network before it can pose a real challenge to leader ESPN. Among the obstacles are sports rights secured by rivals for years into the future and a lack of viewer awareness. "They need to be a serious player when these ... rights contracts come up in the next few years," said sports buyer Kevin Collins, senior vice president at Initiative, noting that NBC Sports has the potential to be "a serious competitor to ESPN in three to five years."

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