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NBC Sports Network to Shut Down by End of 2021, Live Sports Move to USA, Peacock

NBC Sports chief Pete Bevacqua calls decision “the best strategic next step” amid shrinking cable bundle

NBCUniversal has decided to shut down its national sports cable network, NBCSN, by the end of this year.

Much of its network’s programming, including the NHL, NASCAR and English Premier League, will move over to USA Network and streaming service Peacock. USA will begin to simulcast some of NBCSN’s games this year until the network winds down completely. The decision also comes as NBC is in its final year under its current NHL rights deal. It’s media deal with the Premier League expires next year.

“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,” NBC Sports president Pete Bevacqua said in a memo on Friday. “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.”

The decision to shutter the network comes as media companies continue to feel the sting of the shrinking pay-TV bundle, a trend that was only further accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the move signals a likely migration for live sports rights towards streaming services like Peacock, which can win back some of those that have left the bundle. This month, Peacock simulcast the NBC broadcast network’s coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns NFL playoff game.

The move could also give a short-term boost to USA Network amid the continued pay-TV subscriber losses. There has been speculation that this year could be a bloodbath for cable channels as streaming viewing has risen to become the dominant form of entertainment.

NBC Sports Network, abbreviated “NBCSN,” was supposed to be Comcast’s attempt at creating an ESPN challenger, but that never materialized. The channel first launched in 1995 as The Outdoor Life Network (OLN), which primarily featured fishing hunting and other outdoor activities. It eventually began airing the Tour de France and relaunched as Versus in 2006. Following Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU from General Electric in 2011, executives announced their intentions to merge Versus within NBC Sports and create a new national sports cable channel.

In debuted as the NBC Sports Network in 2012, with its top sports rights including the NHL (including Stanley Cup Final games), Olympics and the English Premier League.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report of NBCSN’s demise on Friday.