MOORESVILLE, N.C. — NBC is pulling the plug on the NBC Sports Network at the conclusion of the year according to an internal memo sent to NBC staff members on Friday.
The decision to close down NBCSN at the end of the year means some motorsports events will ultimately be moved over to Peacock — a streaming service introduced by NBC in 2020.
NBC Universal notified cable carriers on Friday that it would be shutting down NBCSN at the end of 2021. That means for this season, many of the NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA contests will continue to be televised on both NBC and NBCSN. Some will be moved to USA Network and Peacock.
Although the Peacock streaming service will make it easier for fans to follow the action via computer, phone and streaming to their televisions, race fans that are used to television or cable broadcasts will have to adapt.
The announcement only affects the sporting events that would be on NBCSN. Races already scheduled for NBC, including the 105th Indianapolis 500, will continue to air on the network’s primary, over-the-air channel.
NBCSN was originally launched in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Channel. It later became Versus before becoming the NBC Sports Network in 2012.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua notified employees of the change in an internal memo, which stated key elements of NBCSN’s programming will move to USA Network and, in some cases, Peacock for 2022 and beyond.
USA Network is a channel already on basic cable packages, which should increase the potential audience when compared to NBCSN.
NASCAR’s current television contract with NBC runs through 2024, but states NASCAR cannot be behind a paywall. Any streaming would have to be free. NASCAR’s television coverage is currently split between NBC and FOX.
NASCAR officials issued the following statement on Friday afternoon:
“We are committed to ensuring that NASCAR and IMSA races are carried and distributed smartly to our broad and loyal fan base. NBC is a best-in-class partner and we will work together to ensure continued high-quality delivery of our events now and in the future.”
NBC Sports Group picked up the option year for IndyCar coverage this season. IMSA signed a deal with NBC before the 2019 season that runs for six seasons, meaning the sports car series is locked in through 2024. Monster Energy AMA Supercross also signed a contract with NBC Sports prior to the 2019 season.
The second round of this year’s Supercross series run earlier this week, was shown live on Peacock and broadcast on a tape-delay basis on NBCSN.
IndyCar released the following statement Friday at 5 p.m. E.T.
“NBC Sports has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift. Our 2021 broadcast schedule is not impacted by this decision. We plan to discuss our future broadcast arrangements in the late spring.”
Earlier Friday IndyCar moved its season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park from April 11 to April 18 in order to move it from NBCSN to NBC. A record nine NTT IndyCar Series races will be broadcast on NBC this year.
NBC will air the first two races of the new season and six of the first eight from April to June.
“The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans.”