NBCUniversal is making big changes for hockey, NASCAR, pro wrestling and soccer fans by pulling the plug on the NBC Sports Network cable channel and acquiring WrestleMania rights for its Peacock streaming service.
The moves illustrate how media owners are grappling with the shrinking cable TV universe, as viewers switch to streaming.
"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 Chairman Pete Bevaqua announced.
NBCSN will cease operation by the end of the year, with "key elements of NBCSN's programming moving to (NBC's) USA Network and, in some cases, Peacock for 2022 and beyond," Bevaqua said.
NHL Stanley Cup playoff games, NASCAR races and other NBC Sports programming will be simulcast this year on USA Network, he says.
USA Network, a general interest basic cable channel launched in 1977, reaches far more homes than NBCSN, which often was relegated to cable sports tiers and packages. USA over the years has aired many sports: Major League Baseball; NHL; college football; U.S. Open tennis; English Premier League soccer; The Masters and other professional golf tournaments; boxing; and some of NBC's Olympics programming.
Today NBC announced a Peacock deal with the WWE for streaming rights in the U.S. The WWE Network will premiere Mach 18 on Peacock with 17,000 hours of new and archived WWE programming on demand. WrestleMania, SummerSlam and other live pay-per-view events will stream on Peacock too, starting with Fastlane on Sunday, March 21
"NBCUniversal has a long-standing relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with Monday Night Raw on USA, said Rick Cordella, Peacock executive vice president and chief revenue officer. "We are thrilled to be the exclusive home for WWE Network and its millions of fans across the country. WWE Network is a transformative addition to the platform and complements Peacock's massive catalog of iconic movies and shows, as well as the best live news and sports, from NBCUniversal and beyond."
The WWE Network will be available for $4.99 a month on Peacock Premium level service with advertisements, or for $9.99 a month on the commercial-free Peacock Premium Plus.
According to Variety, USA Network ranked No. 20 among the most watched TV networks in 2020 based on total viewers, according to Nielsen research. NBCSN was No. 64.
ESPN was the highest-rated sports network at No. 8. Other sports networks included Fox Sports 1 (67); NFL Network (70); ESPN2 (75); Golf Channel (100); MLB Network (111); Big Ten Network (117); ESPNU (123), ESPNEWS and the Tennis Network (tied at 131), ESPN Deportes (135) and Fox Sports 2 (137).