Peacock gets into a sporting mood

Live sports are rapidly becoming part of Peacock's playbook.

NBCUniversal's relatively new streaming service could be in position to add more live sports to the streaming mix following word late last week that the Comcast-owned enterprise will shut down sports network NBCSN by the end of 2021. While National Hockey League and Nascar coverage will transition to USA Network, some NBCSN sports programs could move to Peacock, though no specific details have been announced.

Adding sports is considered a top priority at Peacock, a service that launched nationwide on July 15, 2020. At last check, had 26 million signups, though NBCU has yet to break down how many Peacock signups are for the completely free version of the service or one of its ad-supported or ad-free subscription-level premium offers. Expect an updated number when Comcast announced Q4 2020 results on Thursday morning.

"At the conclusion of 2021, we have decided that the best strategic next step for our Sports Group and the entire Company is to wind down NBCSN completely, with key elements of NBCSN's programming moving to USA Network and, in some cases, Peacock for 2022 and beyond," NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua explained in the internal announcement.

Meanwhile, Peacock has already been active with respect to adding live sports and pseudo-sports content to its slate. Today, for example, NBCU and WWE notched a multiyear deal giving Peacock exclusive streaming rights to the WWE Network in the US starting March 18. WWE's base of streaming subscribers shifting over to Peacock Premium, the ad-supported subscription service that sells for $4.99 per month on a standalone basis.

Among other examples, Peacock last August introduced a free channel, NBC Sports on Peacock, that streams live sports talk shows such as The Dan Patrick Show and The Rich Eisen Show. Other live sports on offer now or later in Peacock include golf's US Open and US Women's Open, Premier League games along with select Olympics events.

That focus on more sports and live events seems to fit in with how Peacock is being positioned as more than an OTT service with on-demand access to exclusive entertainment fare along with a catalog that recently added The Office.

Peacock "is kind of a next-generation broadcast network," Jeff Shell, NBCU's CEO, said at an investor conference last month.

While more sports and live events could help Peacock differentiate in a growing market of general entertainment streaming services, broadening its content slate could portend even more changes coming to NBCU's stable of more traditional cable TV networks.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the decision to shut down NBCSN "is part of a broader reassessment of the company's cable networks unit that could see further shutdowns in the coming years." Other NBCU-owned networks considered "potentially expendable" are E!, Oxygen and Syfy, the WSJ reported last fall.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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