The NBC Sports Network will shut down at the end of 2021, the company said Friday. That will cut out the most prominent home among traditional networks to watch competitive swimming in the United States.
Much of the network’s programming will move to sister-station USA Network, also owned by NBCUniversal, while NBCUniversal’s new paid streaming service Peacock will also carry some of the programming that was previously on NBC Sports, beginning in 2022.
The network was the television home to many of USA Swimming’s major events, including the flagship Pro Swim Series and some National Championship meets, in parallel with another NBCUniversal property, The Olympic Channel. The Olympic Channel will continue to air Olympic programming, but its reach is much smaller than NBCSN’s current reach of about 80 million households. We couldn’t find updated household numbers for the Olympic Channel, but when the network launched in 2017, it was expected to reach about 35 million American households.
“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 announcing the decision from NBC Universal read.
The conglomerate believes that this will make the company’s remaining platforms stronger, what one analyst and media consultant Patrick Crakes called “reverse segmentation.”
USA Network regularly participates in NBC’s Olympic coverage and also hosts NHL games and NASCAR races.
This will also shift the network’s biggest property, the American rights to English Premier League soccer, to USA Network and more significantly to the Peacock platform. The latter shift had already begun prior to Friday’s announcement.
What specifically this means for swimming won’t become clear until later. With the upstart International Swimming League, which has taken an often-combative stance with the multi-billion dollar Olympic investment by NBC, spent its first season on ESPN before moving to the CBS Sports Network. NBC has generally seen synergies with inter-Olympic competition in sports like swimming as a way to support its once-every-two-years financial windfall.