NBCUniversal will close its NBC Sports Network cable channel by the end of the year, according to an internal memo from the New York Times, and broadcast some of its sports programming to USA Network and the Peacock streaming service.
This move will close a reliable source of revenue for the company – NBCSN brings in hundreds of millions of dollars annually – to make Peacock a real competitor to other streaming services like Netflix and Disney +, and to prop up the US network.
The changes suggest that the traditional cable bundle, which has lost tens of millions of subscribers to cable cutting over the past decade but has been largely kept afloat by live sports programming, may soon lose some of that ballast as well. They also continue the trend of consolidation among cable channels as cable operators try to reduce the high fees they have to pay to carry the networks.
Some of NBCUniversal’s largest sports franchises will soon appear on the USA Network, according to the memo from Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group.
“Starting later this year, USA Network will end certain NBC Sports programs, including N.H.L. Stanley Cup playoff games and NASCAR races as part of a larger transition within the company, ”wrote Bevacqua.
The news of NBCUniversals plans was first reported by Sports Business Journal.
NBCSN was founded by Comcast in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network and later renamed Versus. After Comcast, the country’s largest cable operator, took over NBCUniversal in 2009, the channel was renamed again and NBCSN became the home of NBC’s sports programming that didn’t fit or weren’t big enough for NBC itself.
Sports fans know the network for its heavy coverage of N.H.L., English Premier League football, and NASCAR. Every two years, the Olympic Games were reported continuously for three weeks, and Olympic sports such as track and field and cycling were supported in the minor years.
NBCSN is still very popular and generates a lot of revenue. It was the second most popular cable sports channel in 2020, after just ESPN and ahead of FS1 and ESPN2. According to Kagan, a media research group from S&P Global Market Intelligence, the channel is available in 76.6 million households, each of whom pays 42 cents a month for it. That means NBCSN is on track to have more than $ 380 million in revenue this year, even before advertising is considered.
But the future of television is streaming, and Comcast is determined not to be left behind.
Comcast has shifted its strategy in the past few years to focus on its growing broadband Internet business and launched Peacock as part of that effort. The ad-supported service, which is free but includes a paid tier, has attracted at least 22 million subscribers and now surpasses Comcast’s more traditional cable video business of 19 million subscribers.