Sports fans have grown used to bad news when it comes to streaming services in recent years, but word that NBCSN is getting the axe in 2021 still came as a shock on Friday. The network, which grew from Outdoor Life Network and became a hub for watching the NHL, English Premiere League soccer, and NASCAR was an important part of watching sports in America.
But according to multiple reports, NBCSN will be scuttled amid a reshuffling of NBC properties, putting NHL and other live broadcasts on USA Network as the company reevaluates how it does live sports. The news made many wonder how much the decision was made because of a number of factors, including the impending cancelation of the Tokyo Olympics. But a report from Kevin Draper of the New York Times offered some new insight into the decision. Namely, that the network was both profitable and popular when NBC decided it would be taken off the air.
NBCSN is still quite popular and generates plenty of revenue. It was the second most viewed cable sports channel in 2020, behind only ESPN and ahead of FS1 and ESPN2. The channel is available in 76.6 million homes, each of which pays 42 cents per month for it, according to Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. That means NBCSN is on track to earn more than $380 million in revenue this year, even before advertising is taken into account.
In other words, NBCSN wasn’t dragging down the company’s bottom line, which means changes were not made because it was not working. By comparison, it was doing a better job than every other sports network not named ESPN. Which means it’s likely many sports fans’ worst fears were behind the move: NBC merely wanted to prop up its Peacock streaming service with more live sports, as well as save some money on other networks by jettisoning broadcasts to places like USA Network instead of operating a dedicated sports channel.
It’s worth noting that the Times obtained an internal memo about the decision, and nowhere mentioned in that was where the glut of Olympic broadcasts will go if the still-scheduled games actually happen. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues and the likelihood of that event being staged decreasing by the day, it seems that NBC made a move assuming the Olympics won’t happen and people will continue to move their attention to a streaming service where episodes of The Office and EPL soccer can hang out behind various paywalls.
[via The New York Times]