Nixing NBCSN is more than just a bid to bolster Peacock


This post will automatically feed through to Twitter but I’m extending my Twitter sabbatical indefinitely and won’t be looking at Twitter mentions. 

Big news day! There’s a lot to digest with the NBCSN news and many stories out there, but for my purposes, Kevin Draper’s piece in the New York Times covers the bases. That piece was headlined (at least in my web browser) “NBC Sports Network Will Shut Down in Bid to Bolster Peacock Streaming Service”

You know that thing where, especially given Covid-19 and Time Warner’s botched rollout of HBO Max, Time Warner is putting all of its theatrical releases simultaneously on HBO Max in order to prop up HBO Max? That was a clear cut case of a company doing something specifically to bolster the streaming service. The Comcast/NBCSN/Peacock thing isn’t nearly as clear cut to me.

Fee negotiations: It’s complicated!

CBS was ahead of the ABC, NBC and FOX pack when it came to driving up retransmission fees for its broadcast network. At least prior to the Viacom merger it had a big advantage: it had no basic cable channels (at least none worth talking about) to complicate negotiations.

With the NBC broadcast network Comcast was completely on the other end of the spectrum. Not only did it have a slew of basic cable properties worth talking about, it’s also a distributor. I’m not smart enough to clearly articulate why being a distributor further complicated its broadcast and cable fee negotiations, but regardless, at least in the last SNL Kagan estimates I saw (Fall 2019) Disney’s FreeForm was generating slightly more in fees than MSNBC (both were in the $.30s/subscriber), which seems insane especially during the Trump presidency.

I could chalk some of Comcast’s issues up to not having the ESPN networks or Disney Channel and/or the Comcast negotiators not being as good as the Disney negotiators, but MSNBC being cheaper than Freeform during the Trump era? That’s a bridge too far for me, so I’ve chalked it up to the added complexity of also being a distributor.

With or without Peacock, Nixing NBCSN makes sense to me

I’m biased to thinking that in 2021 you simply can’t be a major cable sports outlet without at least charging $1.00/month/subscriber. Draper reports NBCSN was at $.42/month/subscriber. In the fall 2019 estimates I have, NBCSN was at $.42 for 2019, $.44 for 2020 and $.46 for 2021. Even if that’s a slightly more optimistic telling it doesn’t get halfway to my $1/month bar.

Meanwhile USA Network was at $1.61/month in 2019, $1.66 in 2020 and a $1.75 in 2021.

I’m a worrier by nature and given the TV business landscape over the past five years I’d be much more inclined to focus my worry on shoring up the $1.75/month/subscriber business than dedicating any worry to my sub-$.50/month/subscriber business. At least for me, that would’ve been true even if Peacock didn’t exist.

Two blog posts in one day: I didn’t see that coming.


This article has 6 Comments

    1. I haven’t spoken to anyone (at the NHL or otherwise) about how the league feels about this move, and it’s possible that it will put a strain on NHL’s relationship with Comcast, but my guess is the NHL will be supportive/understanding (ultimately, if not today). I don’t think it changes the rights bidding landscape or that there will be fewer bidders because of this.

    1. The schedule with 175 games on Peacock was announced more than a week ago, prior to today’s news they’d be shuttering NBCSN by the end of 2021. It’s not yet clear to me how many/if any additional games will be shifted to Peacock this season.

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