NBC Sports Network will cease operations in 2021 and transfer their sports rights to USA Network, according to an internal company memo. The network hoped to compete with ESPN, but suffered low ratings and took a beating when faced with factors such as the postponing of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the rising popularity of streaming games and cable “cord-cutting”.
The network has an existing contract with the NHL that ends after the 2020-21 season and also has existing contracts with NASCAR and Premier League soccer. Parent company NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast, plans to move games to its USA Network and streaming service Peacock, which already airs some Premier League matches.
The move to USA Network will grow viewership by about 6 million homes, for a total of approximately 86 million homes versus NBC Sports Network’s 80 million homes.
“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,” the memo from NBC Universal reportedly said. It went on to say that by moving the sports programming, USA Network will become “an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace.”
The company seemed optimistic about the move. “We’re absolutely committed more than ever to live sports as a company, and having such a huge platform like USA Network airing some of our key sports content is great for our partners, distributors, viewers, and advertisers alike,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Pete Bevacqua said.