NBC has told distributors and some sports leagues that it plans to shut down its NBCSN sports channel by the end of the year. NBC’s most recent affiliate deals with Charter and Dish Network do not include carriage for NBCSN beyond this year, sources said. Plus, sports leagues that have deals with NBC were being told of the changes this week.
The move is in line with the current media trend of consolidating cable channels. For NBC, it also is part of a bigger strategy to grow its Peacock streaming service, while, at the same time, bolstering the programming schedule for other NBC channels like USA Network. Bigger properties, like the NHL, NASCAR and EPL, will move to USA Network while keeping some windows on the broadcast channel. Smaller properties, like car shows, dog shows and some motorsports, will have to find new linear TV outlets.
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’s other sports channels, Golf Channel and the Olympic Channel, will not be affected, sources said. Last year, Golf Channel moved its operations from Orlando to NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Conn. Last week, NBC announced that Peacock would carry speed skating on a premium tier — content that in the past would have been on both NBCSN and Olympic Channel.
Comcast launched NBCSN in ‘95, when it was then known as the Outdoor Life Network and carried the Tour de France as its biggest property. In ‘06, the channel picked up the rights to the NHL and changed its name to Versus. After Comcast bought NBC in ‘11, the name changed again to NBC Sports Network. The channel currently is in 80.6 million homes.
Rumors have been swirling around for NBCSN’s future for weeks, including a prediction last month that NBC would shut down the channel at some point this year.