NBC Sports Network, the cable sports channel that airs NASCAR, IMSA, and IndyCar, is expected to shut down at the end of this year, according to separate reports by the Sports Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal. The end of the network, which has also been the home of scripted automotive shows and televised auctions, will mark the end of one of the American automotive world's most significant media partners.
NBC's current contract to broadcast IndyCar ends after the 2021 season, but its contracts with NASCAR and IMSA both stretch into 2024. According to the Wall Street Journal, NASCAR broadcasts are likely to begin moving to the NBC-owned USA Network this year as part of a plan to use the demise of NBC Sports Network to bolster its other cable offerings.
"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 said in a memo to staff Friday. "This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost. We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company."
While USA offers a solution to NASCAR, other properties may be left seeking new TV options. The Sports Business Journal report makes no direct reference to either IndyCar or IMSA, but it specifically lists both car shows and "Some motorsports" as properties that will be forced to change their linear television distribution plans going forward.
NASCAR joined the NBC Sports Network in 2014 as part of a deal that assumed NASCAR would draw a consistent live sports audience for the then-young channel. In the years that have followed, ratings have spiraled downward.
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