The sports television landscape is about to undergo a huge shakeup.
NBCUniversal will shut down its main sports channel, NBCSN, at the end of 2021, according to multiple reports on Friday. Much of its live sports content will move to USA Network, while more niche sports and events could be shifted to the company’s streaming service, Peacock, or forced to find a new home altogether.
“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 Sports Group Chairman Pete Bevacqua told the Wall Street Journal.
NBC is home to many big sports properties including the NHL, NASCAR, IndyCar and soccer’s English Premier League, with large swaths of games and races broadcast on NBCSN. In his memo to staff on Friday, Bevacqua said, “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.”
NBCSN has long been the home of regular-season and NHL Stanley Cup playoff games. (Photo: Perry Nelson, USA TODAY Sports)
The biggest question could be what happens with NHL broadcasting rights after this season.
NHL games have been shown on NBCSN (or Versus as it was previously known) for the past 15 years, but the league’s rights deal with NBC expires after this season, so the NHL had already been working on a new long-term deal, likely with more than one network, according to Sports Business Daily. 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. NBCSN is currently in 80.6 million homes.
NASCAR’s TV deal with NBC runs through 2024, but the auto racing series also has a deal with Fox Sports, which broadcasts races in the first half of each season on Fox and FS1. NBC and NBCSN broadcast races in the second half of the season.
NBC acquired the broadcast rights for all IndyCar races, including the Indianapolis 500, before the start of the 2019 season. NBCSN has been a broadcast partner with IndyCar since 2009, though ABC had long held the broadcast rights to the Indy 500 and select other races before 2019
ANALYSIS: With NBCSN phasing out, what’s the future for IndyCar broadcasts?
NBC’s other sports channels, Golf Channel and the Olympic Channel, will not be affected, according to Sports Business Daily.
NBCSN was originally launched by parent company Comcast in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network. OLN’s biggest property was cycling’s Tour de France. In 2006, OLN acquired broadcast rights with the NHL and changed its name to Versus before becoming NBCSN after Comcast bought NBC in 2011.