Major changes are underway as the 2021 NASCAR season is gearing up to kick off. Part of the Cup Series, which has been broadcast on NBC Sports Network, is now changing lanes to the USA Network.
If you’re wondering why the switch, it’s because NBC Sports Network is shutting down and plans to be completely done by the end of 2021. This will leave NASCAR fans, among many other avid sports fans, tuning in to a different channel. As a result, they will have to watch the NASCAR playoffs, as well as the championship race on the USA Network.
NBC is transferring its sport media rights to the new network during 2021 during the downsizing, NBC Sports reports. Not only do these media rights include NASCAR, but it also affects the National Hockey League and the English Premier League. What’s more the contract between NBCSN and NASCAR is worth $4.4 billion and it expires in 2024.
Sports media rights advisor Lee Berke explains that this is a “back to the future” move for the company. He’s alluding to the fact that USA Network previously aired NBA action until 1984.
“The fact that sports is returning to USA isn’t a new concept,” Berke explained to CNBC. “Certainly, the distribution is helpful, but this move is reflective of a couple of things — the pay-TV bundle is shrinking. The subscriber base is shrinking. So, it justifies fewer networks to be on the air and the other part of it is the growth of streaming.”
NASCAR Network Change Offers More Viewing Opportunities
This major network change actually gives NASCAR fans a greater opportunity to tune into the races at home. This is because the USA Network is available in roughly 86 million homes. While on the other hand, NBCSN is only available in 80 million.
FOX Sports will air the first half of the schedule and cover the annual All-Star Race. Then, NBC Sports typically takes over the back half of the season and covers the final regular-season races, the playoffs, and the championship. However, with the network change, USA Network will cover these high-profile events.
NBC Sports Network History
In 1995, Comcast originally launched NBCSN. It was originally named the Outdoor Life Network and boasted the broadcast rights for the Tour de France. The channel then took over media rights for the NHL in 2006. It was then that they switched up the branding.
The efforts stemmed from trying to keep up with ESPN. So, the channel went from the Outdoor Life Network to the NBC Sports Network.