TV Answer Man, is Peacock going to show all the NBC regional sports channels on its streaming service? I read somewhere that it would. When will that start? Will it be part of the Peacock subscription? — Hank, Philadelphia.
Hank, NBC, owned by Comcast, owns and or operates seven regional sports channels which have the regional TV rights to teams in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, San Francisco, Northern California, Chicago, Boston and New York. (The teams include the Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Bulls, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Sacramento Kings, among others.)
Mark Lazarus, NBCUniversal’s chairman of television and streaming, told a Sports Business Journal conference last week that his company has been negotiating streaming rights with the leagues and teams and plans to provide the regional sports channels on Peacock later this year, according to Bloomberg.
The comment, and the Bloomberg article, prompted several other articles and numerous social media posts suggesting the channels will be free and available to everyone in every market.
But allow me to pump the brakes a bit. (Which I am compelled to do here quite frequently.)
First, it’s December 5. “This year” has 26 days left. That’s 26 days for Peacock to roll out this plan. It could happen. Sure, it could happen. But most of the planning and negotiations with the leagues better be in the rear-view mirror for it to happen. (And Sinclair and Bally Sports can tell you that negotiating with the leagues is not as easy as it looks.)
Second, don’t expect Peacock to offer the regional sports channels to just anyone. They are, by definition, regional sports channels. If Peacock is permitted to carry them, they will undoubtedly only be available to viewers in their respective markets. The Philly teams in Philly and so on.
Third, NBC, and Comcast, likely won’t undercut pay TV services that now carry the RSNs by simply including them in a regular Peacock plan, which starts at $4.99 a month. (Some pay TV subscribers now shell out $100 a month in large part just to get a cable or satellite bundle that includes a NBC RSN. They would drop those services in a New York minute if they could get the RSN for $4.99 a month, or even $9.99 a month, the cost of the ads-free Peacock plan.)
It’s possible, sure, but it’s more likely that Peacock will sell the regional sports channels as a separate offering, as NESN now does for its NESN 360 service and Bally Sports does for its Bally Sports Plus plan. The cost could be comparable to what those two services are now charging, which is around $20 a month or more.
There’s no doubt that the regional sports industry is in flux now, as Lazarus’ comments indicate. (Bally Sports is now undergoing a leadership shakeup, by example.) But that doesn’t mean the RSN owners will devalue their properties by essentially giving them away.
The TV Answer Man will monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes.
Until then, happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann