NBC will shutter its cable sports network by the end of this year, NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua wrote to employees in a memo Friday, altering the cable sports landscape as cord-cutting upends traditional sports viewership and media companies pivot to streaming.

NBC Sports Network broadcasts the NHL and Premier League, among other live sports. Key programming from the network will be moved to USA Network, another NBC-owned cable network, as well as the company’s new streaming service, Peacock, according to the memo.

The move will bolster the offerings on Peacock, which NBC launched last year as its parent company, Comcast, seeks to drive subscribers to the new service.

“You can have NHL nights on USA, more hockey on NBC and a streaming exclusive night on Peacock now,” said Pat Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive turned industry consultant. “That’s part of the evolution of media – to leverage broadcast, streaming and pay TV together.”

NBC Sports Network also televises the Tour de France and the Olympics, which will be divided up and distributed among NBC platforms. NBC Sports Network will continue operations through this summer and and will air the summer Olympics, if they take place.

The current NHL rights agreement expires at the end of this season. The negotiations to extend those rights are ongoing.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Kagan, NBC Sports Network is in 76.6 million homes, which pay an average of 42 cents per subscriber, meaning the network drives around $320 million through cable subscriptions. But cord-cutting has eaten into those returns in recent years. In 2017, NBC Sports Network was in nearly 84 million homes. (USA is in 82.8 million homes.)

“This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” Bevacqua wrote in the memo. “We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company.”

Founded in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network, focused mainly on fishing, hunting and outdoor sports, the channel was relaunched as Versus in 2006 and rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2011.

— Washington Post (TNS)