In a surprising move, NBCUniversal is stopping NBCSN, its longtime veteran sports TV network.
NBCSN’s big TV sports franchises -- the National Hockey League and Nascar auto racing -- will transition to USA Network, including one of its biggest events, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff games.
An internal memo from Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group, on Friday didn’t offer much explanation about the ending of the network: “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.”
Other NBCU sports properties will remain, says Bevacqua, including Golf Channel, The Olympic Channel, the regional sports networks, SportsEngine, a youth sports platform, and GolfNow, an online booking service for golf courses.
NBCSN has been behind some of its cable network sports competitors -- in particular Walt Disney’s ESPN -- when it comes to inking high-profile sports franchises.
All sports TV networks had a tough 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cancelled or delayed many sports franchises -- including the NHL. Many sports returned beginning in August 2020.
In the third quarter of 2020, NBCSN averaged 506,000 Nielsen-measured prime-time viewers -- good for 22nd place among all cable networks.
ESPN came in at fifth place with 1.29 million viewers, while Fox Sports 1, in 62nd place, had 172,000 viewers.
Over the last few years, Disney has launched a premium streaming app, ESPN+, which now has 11 million subscribers.
NBCSN, as well as other networks, has seen declining traditional pay TV subscribers due to cord-cutting. NBCSN is now under 80 million subscribers.
National TV advertising for NBCSN totaled $674.6 million from January 2020 to January 2021. The total for the year-before period was $739 million, according to iSpot.tv.
NBCSN started in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network, which changed to Versus (2006) and then to NBC Sports Network (2012).