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NBC to shut sports network

January 22, 2021, 9:42 PM UTC

NBCUniversal is shutting down its sports channel, NBCSN, the latest move by media giants to slim down their portfolios in the face of cord cutting.

At the end of this year, NBCSN will go dark and “key elements” of its programming will move to a sister cable channel, USA Network, and Peacock, the company’s new streaming service.

Starting later this year, USA will begin airing some NBC sports programming, including NHL Stanley Cup playoff games and Nascar races, Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a memo.

“This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” he said.

Cable channels are fighting for their survival as consumers increasingly cancel their TV subscriptions in favor of streaming services. Though coverage of live events is considered more valuable than other types of content, sports networks haven’t been spared from the downturn. Last year, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. wrote down the value of its regional sports channels by $4.23 billion — roughly half what it paid for them in 2019.

NBCSN averaged 233,000 prime-time viewers last year, down from 411,000 in 2018, according to Nielsen data. That’s far behind Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, which was at 1.48 million nightly viewers last year and 1.96 million in 2018.

NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast Corp., has shut down channels before. In 2017, the Esquire Network, a joint venture between Hearst and NBC, became an online-only channel after it was dropped by AT&T Inc.