NBCU’s deal with the NHL, whose games provided a core programming element for NBCSN, is in its final year.
The network existed under other names and brands since launching in 1995.
In a staff memo, NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua called the shutdown the “best strategic next step” for the company. He said it would make USA Network “an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace.”
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USA has existed for two decades longer than NBCSN and is among the most deeply penetrated cable networks on the dial. Over its history, it has carried sports like the U.S. Open tennis tournament and has enjoyed strong ratings from wrestling broadcasts by the WWE.
NBCU has shown a willingness to step back from traditional pay-TV networks before, winding down rating-challenged properties like Chiller and Esquire in recent years. Pay-TV subscriptions peaked at a bit more than 100 million homes a decade ago and are projected to fall to nearly half that level by 2025.
Live sports has been a foundational part of Peacock since it launched nationally last summer. The streaming service, which has a free tier as well as a premium level, both supported by ads, carried an NFL playoff game simulcast earlier this month. Last year, it streamed a number of Premier League soccer matches and had bonus live coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament, which aired on other NBC properties. NBC Sports Gold has been in the market for several years as a subscription streaming offering with certain key rights.
Here is the internal memo sent today by NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua:
We’re all aware of how quickly the media landscape is evolving, and our Company is taking thoughtful steps to stay ahead of these trends wherever possible and, in many instances, help set them.
As evidence of our strong commitment to live sports programming, we recently transitioned all of Golf Channel’s linear studio productions to Stamford, and we’re producing multiple new programs for Peacock and other platforms in Stamford as well. In addition, we’re doing more in partnership with our colleagues at Telemundo and Sky Sports.
Commencing later this year, USA Network will begin carrying and/or simulcasting certain NBC Sports programming, including NHL Stanley Cup Playoff games and NASCAR races, as part of a larger transition within the Company.
At the conclusion of 2021, we have decided that the best strategic next step for our Sports Group and the entire Company is to wind down NBCSN completely, with key elements of NBCSN’s programming moving to USA Network and, in some cases, Peacock for 2022 and beyond.
This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost. We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company.
This transition, combined with our robust portfolio of assets, including Golf Channel, The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, RSNs, SportsEngine, GolfNow, digital, audio, sports betting and gaming, puts us in an even stronger position as leaders in the sports media space and to continue to grow our business.
We will keep you informed as the broader plan develops, and please join me for a virtual meeting on Tuesday afternoon, January 26 to answer your questions. A meeting invitation will follow shortly.
Thank you for everything you’re doing on behalf of NBC Sports Group.