NBC Sports Network shutting down this year
NBC Sports Network, the dedicated cable sports channel of the Comcast-owned US broadcaster, is to close later this year.
NBCUniversal confirmed the move on Friday, with programming on the network, including NHL ice hockey, Nascar motor racing and English Premier League soccer, to switch to sister general entertainment channel USA Network and new streaming service Peacock.
The move will save costs in terms of production and pay-television distribution fees, and widen the reach of NBC sports content, with USA Network available in 86 million homes, compared with NBCSN’s 80 million. Peacock has already been streaming Premier League games in the 2020-21 season.
NBCSN, formerly known as Outdoor Life Network and Versus, took on its current guise in 2012, but has struggled to compete with ESPN, and, like the market’s dominant player, been affected by ‘cord-cutting’, subscribers switching from traditional TV platforms to cheaper and more flexible streaming services.
Other sports channels operated by the top US networks include CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports 1.
After the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, this is a big year for NBC, with the broadcaster to provide extensive coverage, across all platforms, of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on top of its regular coverage of top sport such as the NFL, college American football and basketball and golf.
NBC Sports Group chairman Pete Bevacqua said: “We’re absolutely committed more than ever to live sports as a company, and having such a huge platform like USA Network airing some of our key sports content is great for our partners, distributors, viewers and advertisers alike.”
NBC holds rights to the NHL in a 10-year, $2 billion deal running to the end of the current 2020-21 campaign, and has said it is keen to continue showing the league, while its Nascar contract runs to 2024.
The present six-year deal with the Premier League, worth around $1 billion, expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.
The closure of NBCSN is thought likely to prompt a review of the NBC sports portfolio, meaning there is uncertainty over continued coverage of events such as cycling’s Tour de France.
However, the decision does not impact on the broadcaster’s regional sports networks, which offer local live coverage of teams in MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS among various leagues.