NBC will shut down its cable NBC Sports Network by the end of this year, NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua wrote to employees in a memo Friday. NBCSN broadcasts the NHL and soccer’s English Premier League, among other live sports.
Key programming from NBCSN will be moved to USA, another NBC-owned cable network, and the company’s new streaming service, Peacock, the memo said.
“This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” Bevacqua wrote. “We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company.”
The move will bolster the offerings on Peacock, which NBC launched last year as its parent company, Comcast, seeks to drive subscribers to the new service. Peacock this year already has 175 Premier League games.
“You can have NHL nights on USA, more hockey on NBC and a streaming exclusive night on Peacock now,” Pat Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive turned industry consultant, told the Washington Post. “That’s part of the evolution of media, to leverage broadcast, streaming and pay TV together.”
Bevacqua said in the memo that NHL playoff games and NASCAR races would be moving to USA this year. USA, which is available in 85.6 million homes, has been airing early round NHL playoff games since 2012.
NBCSN is available in 80.1 million homes, according to Nielsen’s latest estimate, which is less than ESPN (83.1 million) and FS1 (80.2 million).
NBCSN also televises the Tour de France and the Olympics, which will be divided up and distributed among NBC platforms. NBCSN will continue operations through the summer and will air the Tokyo Olympics, if they take place.
The news of NBCSN shutting down also comes during a time when many of NBC Sports Group’s most valuable sports properties are coming up for renewal. This is the last season of a 10-year deal with the NHL, and negotiations for the Premier League rights, beginning with the 2022-23 season, are ongoing.
Many have predicted that the next rights deal with the NHL will include multiple networks, with former broadcast partners ESPN and Fox Sports expected to be in the mix. NBC’s current deal averages $200 million per season.
Premier League deals are usually for three years, but NBC secured a six-year package in 2015 by paying nearly $1 billion.
NASCAR, which has its races from July through November on NBC and NBCSN, has a deal through 2024.
IndyCar’s contract, which includes the Indianapolis 500 on NBC, expires at the end of this year. The sanctioning body said in a statement that NBC “has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift.”
NBCSN was launched by Comcast in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network, and most of its programming was hunting and fishing. It was best known for carrying the Tour de France until it acquired the NHL in 2005. It changed its name to Versus in 2006 and then to NBC Sports Network six years later after Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011.
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