Comcast's NBCUniversal to Shut Down Sports Cable Channel NBCSN by Year-End -- 2nd Update
By Joe Flint and Lillian Rizzo
NBCUniversal is shutting down its sports cable channel NBCSN at
the end of the year and migrating much of its programming to its
sister general entertainment network USA, the company said.
The premium properties on NBCSN are the National Hockey League
and Nascar auto racing, both of which will start to transition to
USA Network this year. Some content will remain on both channels
until NBCSN officially turns off the lights. NBCUniversal informed
staffers of the plan Friday afternoon in a company memo.
"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," said NBC Sports Group
Chairman Pete Bevacqua.
By putting high-profile sports on USA Network, NBCUniversal -- a
unit of Comcast Corp. -- is hoping to solve two problems with one
move: Get rid of an underperforming asset and boost an already
powerful one. The Premier Soccer League will also have matches on
NBCSN has struggled to compete against bigger rivals such as
Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and Fox Corp.'s Fox Sports cable network.
While it has a large national reach, its ratings pale in comparison
to its competition. Fox Corp. and Wall Street Journal parent News
Corp share common ownership.
By putting popular sports on the USA channel, NBCUniversal is
hoping it can increase its value of USA Network to distributors.
Having more sports on USA will also make it a more viable
competitor to WarnerMedia's TBS and TNT channels, which also carry
a mix of entertainment and sports.
The addition of sports won't mean there will be less
entertainment fare on USA, Frances Berwick, chairman of
NBCUniversal's Entertainment Networks, said in a statement. "We
remain committed to original entertainment programming, and believe
that high-profile live sports will complement USA's broad premium
scripted, unscripted and WWE slate," she said.
The move is part of a broader reassessment of the company's
cable networks unit that could see further shutdowns in the coming
years. Among other networks that are considered potentially
expendable are E!, Oxygen and Syfy, the Journal previously
NBCUniversal earlier said its cable networks would "continue to
be a valuable part of our portfolio for fans, advertisers and our
The evaluation of cable networks' long-term value to the company
comes as NBCUniversal pivots much of its attention to its new
streaming service, Peacock. It is likely that some of the sports on
NBCSN will find a home on Peacock, which already carries the
Premier Soccer League.
Still, the cable networks have remained a cash cow for
NBCUniversal. Pay-TV providers pay to carry channels and then pass
on those costs to customers through monthly bills -- which have
risen as cord-cutting continues. Comcast, as well as its peers,
have seen customers flee in favor of subscription streaming
services such as Netflix Inc. in recent quarters.
Some of NBCUniversal's networks -- including USA, Bravo, E! And
SyFy -- have lost more than 10 million subscribers each since 2014,
according to Nielsen data.
These cable networks were a key attraction when Comcast acquired
control of the entertainment company about a decade ago.
The coronavirus pandemic has weighed considerably on
NBCUniversal's business. Movie-theater closures have hurt the film
operation, while Universal theme parks were closed for a stretch of
time last year and are still allowing only a fraction of the
typical foot traffic. TV ad spending also suffered earlier in the
During the third quarter, NBCUniversal saw overall revenue drop
by 19% to $6.72 billion. Only NBCUniversal's broadcast division
posted higher revenue during the quarter. Parent company Comcast
reports fourth-quarter earnings next week.
Write to Joe Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org and Lillian Rizzo at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 22, 2021 15:27 ET (20:27 GMT)
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