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NBCUniversal Explores Selling Off or Streaming RSNs on Peacock

Jeff Kotuby

Could NBCUniversal be the next broadcasting giant to liquidate their regional sports networks? A Wall Street Journal report seems to think a change is in the air.

According to the WSJ article, NBCUniversal first looked to stream NBC Sports Philadelphia, but ran in conflict with parent company Comcast’s broader streaming vision. Now, NBCUniversal isn’t sure what to do with these RSNs that are hemorrhaging cash as younger audiences ditch cable in favor of live TV streaming services.

One option would, of course, be to sell them. The teams themselves could decide to purchase the stations, or another buyer could swoop in and grab them. Sinclair Broadcasting Group has made a name for themselves recently by purchasing the former Fox Sports RSNs and re-branding them to Bally Sports Networks, named for the casino and resort company of the same name. Sinclair could look to grab these RSNs and add them to their catalog of stations, giving them access to the coveted New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Chicago markets, among others. This could be the network’s preferred move, as the company is shuttering its national NBC Sports Network at the end of the year — could the RSNs be next?

The other option would be to offer these stations as direct-to-consumer streaming options — which Sinclair is also in the process of developing. While they won’t have the DTC app available until 2022, the option is still on the table, and it’s one that might just work for NBCU in their current markets. New York Mets fans, Philly sports fans, and D.C. sports fans alone could potentially offer a hefty subscription number that would make NBCU happy. While the company bandied about the idea of integrating the RSNs into Peacock, they soon discovered that costs would vary based on the subscriber’s location, making it too much of a headache for the higher-ups.

In any case, the streaming future has certainly impacted RSNs — and the COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated these issues. As fewer and fewer sports fans watch full games and find the practice “boring,” RSNs are taking this lack of engagement on the proverbial chin. The end result may be a dwindling number of die-hard fans having to fork over even more money to watch their favorite teams.

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