NBCU to Decide Regional Networks' Fate

    • NBCUniversal’s regional sports channels spend over $4 billion each year.
    • Peacock, which was set to stream NBC Sports Philadelphia, halted plans upon questions surrounding its strategy.

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To stream or to sell? That’s the question for NBCUniversal and its regional sports networks. 

The media giant is exploring moving the networks to streaming platform Peacock or selling them off entirely.

The speculation comes after parent company Comcast announced plans to get rid of NBC Sports Network earlier this year, moving the content to USA Network and Peacock. Seven cities and/or regions comprise the network.

Comcast is leaning into Peacock, which played a big part in its Q1 2021 revenue of $27.2 billion — a $600 million spike year-over-year. Peacock has 42 million subscribers now, compared to 33 million in Q4 2020.

Sports have certainly helped Peacock, which expects to spend at least $2 billion on content in its first two years. 

About 1.2 million subscribers transitioned from WWE Network following Peacock’s five-year, $1 billion deal with the WWE — just in time to make WrestleMania 37 the most-viewed live event for the fledgling platform.

At the same time, NBCU’s regional sports networks have seen a steep drop in subscribers — from 190.2 million in 2014 to 145.8 million in 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

NBCU’s seven regional channels spend over $4 billion each year on rights, per Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network — and had to give out more than $1 billion in rebates when the pandemic halted several leagues.

NBCU says it’s also considering selling the networks to the teams associated with them.