NBC is getting out of the sports network business.
First reported by Sports Business Journal, NBC is planning to shut down the NBC Sports Network by the end of 2021. NBCSN serves as the sports home for NBC programming and regularly broadcasts NHL and English Premier League games along with NASCAR races and college basketball games.
Per the report, NBC would be moving certain sporting events to the USA Network. It’s currently in more homes than NBCSN. NBC’s deal with the NHL is up at the end of the current season and Fox has reportedly been interested in NHL rights.
The big question is how a league like the NHL reacts to the shutting down of a network that has carried its games for the past 15 years. The NHL’s deal with NBC ends after this season. The NHL has made it clear that it wants to split its rights between at least two TV outlets. NBC has told the NHL that it would carve out regular windows on its broadcast channel and USA Network, which is in 86.2 million homes, plus Peacock.
NBC has recently started showing EPL games on Peacock, its new streaming service. Peacock was the home for Sunday’s game between Liverpool and Manchester United, a battle for first place that was arguably the biggest game to appear on Peacock so far.
A memo to NBC staff said that events like NHL playoff games and NASCAR races would be simulcast on USA before NBCSN is officially shut down.
“This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua said. “We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our sports group, our partners and our company.”
Peacock launched in 2020
NBC launched Peacock in April of 2020 and charges $5 a month for its middle tier of service that includes certain EPL games. EPL games became the anchor sports content for Peacock after NBC had previously offered a package of games online through its NBC Sports Gold platforms.
It’s unclear how many EPL games would be shown on USA, or if NBC would move more games over to Peacock. An increase in EPL games on Peacock would further increase the number of European soccer leagues available to U.S. consumers only through streaming services. German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A games are available on ESPN’s streaming service ESPN+ along with numerous other soccer competitions from around the globe.
Peacock would also likely serve as a home for NASCAR with NBCSN getting shuttered. NBC currently has the rights to the second half of NASCAR’s Cup Series and Xfinity Series seasons. While some of those races are on NBC, a majority of those races are on NBCSN. Will all those NBCSN races be shown on USA or will some be available only though Peacock?
NASCAR’s current television contract with NBC and Fox goes through the 2024 season. NBC also has the rights to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, though its contract with IndyCar only goes through the 2021 season.
NBCSN used to be Versus
NBC Sports Network was launched in 2012. The network started as the Outdoor Life Network in 1995 and was rebranded in 2006 to Versus. That network then became the NBC Sports Network as we know it.
In addition to showing live sports from the leagues mentioned above, NBCSN has been the home of Mecum auto auction programming and NBC NASCAR and football programming. The network has also shown Sky Sports programming during the weekdays after parent company Comcast acquired Sky in 2019.