NBCSN is shutting down by the end of 2021, according to multiple reports. As to be expected, this is likely to affect a number of subscribers, and especially those who pay for a live TV streaming service primarily for access to channels like NBC Sports Network.
In general, NBCUniversal has recently been making some major changes to the way consumers access properties and brands it owns or currently has the rights to broadcast. The most notably example of this has been the introduction of the Peacock streaming service which launched mid-way through 2020, following a beta rollout only available to select Xfinity customers.
As a means to increase appeal and attract more subscribers, the launch of Peacock had a knock-on effect on sports coverage across the board. For example, not only were a number of English Premier League games moved exclusively to Peacock, but this effectively ended the NBC Sports Gold Premier League Pass add-on. Other sports and their related passes were affected in a similar way.
Although NBCU or Comcast has yet to release an official press release, multiple reports are now confirming that NBCU has started advising distributors that it plans to shutter NBCSN by the end of this year. One of the reasons suggested for the change is the lack of substantial enough deals to carry NBCSN, resulting in NBCU opting to shift focus to its other channels and entities that are proving to be more popular.
What happens to sports content next?
At the moment, what happens next to NBCSN sports coverage appears to be a little less certain than the general ‘NBCSN is shutting down’ point. The reports do claim that, in some cases, sports coverage will move to some of NBCU’s other popular channels, with USA Network specifically named. In addition, there also appears to be a clear suggestion that more sports content will make its way to Peacock in due course. Whether this will affect the pricing remains to be seen, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Peacock is becoming all the more important to NBCU and Comcast.
For subscribers specifically interested in NHL, Nascar, or Premier League, it is understood these are prime examples of the the type of sports content that will eventually be moved to USA Network, following the closure of NBCSN. For content that doesn’t make its way to USA Network or Peacock, it currently remains uncertain as to where it will end up.
In terms of the Premier League, it also remains to be seen if or how a move to USA will impact on either Peacock’s exclusivity on select games, or its access to replays of matches that are typically shown on NBC and NBCSN channels.
Premier League Replays have already proven to be a controversial Peacock feature. After initially selling Peacock on the basis that all Premier League matches broadcast in a season would be available as replays, NBCU suddenly removed access to replays of games shown on NBCSN. Only to U-turn once more and make them available again. While that might have been an early indication of the latest NBCSN development, Premier League Replays are unlikely to be the only uncertainty going forward.