NBCUniversal announced on Friday that NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will be shutting down at the end of 2021. It’s believed that both NHL games Stanley Cup Playoff games and NASCAR races will eventually be shifted to other platforms across NBCUniversal with the two main viewing channels being the USA Network and Peacock, a streaming platform the company launched in mid-January of 2020. Although games will still be broadcasted on NBC and NBC Sports Philly for the remainder of the season it’s unsure what platforms the NHL can be seen on next season.
According to a report from Ahiza Garcia-Hodges and Dylan Byers of NBC News, Pete Bevacqua, the NBC Sports Group Chairman, essentially stated ‘in an email to the company’ the decision is based on financial ramifications from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. From the report:
“The announcement comes amid a broader effort at NBC to consolidate its operations, a strategy that could see the closure of other channels. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has also forced cost-cutting across numerous companies, including NBCUniversal.
“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,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in an email to the company.”
Bevacqua goes on to say the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff games and NASCAR races “will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost.” Peacock is expected to handle more of NBC’s sports programming, which features a good chunk of the network’s Premier League soccer coverage among other things.
For the NHL this opens up the question of what are all the platforms that will be covering the league starting next season. The network shuts down at the end of the calendar year, but you have to believe Gary Bettman and company may not want to switch major networks in the middle of what could possibly be the first 82-game season/28-game postseason that runs from October to June since 2018-19, a time when the league is hoping to recover some of whatever COVID-19 may have cost them financially. To paint the picture of how big this news is, the Flyers have already played two of their five games this season on NBCSN (one of which opened the action for the entire league) and still have nine more appearances on the channel before the season is over.
NBCSN originally launched as Outdoor Life Network (OLN) in July of 1995, which was the name of the network when the NHL joined in 2005 after leaving ESPN. It was renamed Versus in September of 2006 and eventually NBC Sports Network in 2012 after Comcast acquired a majority stake in NBCUniversal.