NBCUniversal walks back its regional sports networks’ direct-to-consumer plans

News of a launch this year was included in a release about an executive promotion, but it turns out it was premature. However, the company is working on a DTC platform that will include NBC Sports Chicago.

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NBCUniversal caused a stir this week when it revealed it would offer its regional sports networks, including NBC Sports Chicago, on a direct-to-consumer platform later this year.

The news was included in a release about an executive promotion. But it turns out it was premature.

“In a personnel-related announcement issued by NBCUniversal Local on Jan. 31, a reference to the NBC Sports Regional Networks’ direct-to-consumer (DTC) plans was inadvertently included and was misleading,” a spokesperson said.

“At this stage in the process, our DTC strategy is evolving as we assess options in each of the unique sports markets we serve. At this time, we don’t have any further details about launch plans including timing or markets. More information will be announced when available.”

That realization likely frustrates some cord-cutters, but the fact remains NBCU has been exploring a DTC service for years and it likely will come to fruition. It’ll take some time, though, because of many moving parts. NBCU needs to reach agreements with the leagues (the NBA, NHL and MLB) and cable providers, who figure to balk at a service that essentially cuts them out.

But those providers are the lifeblood of RSNs, who have multiyear deals with the distributors to carry their games. Most of the money RSNs make comes from cable subscriptions, not advertising. So the RSNs will have to walk a fine line to keep their subscription revenue coming while not jeopardizing it with a DTC service.

NBCU also is working on the product itself, such as whether it will be for anyone or solely for in-market viewers and whether it will be offered for each channel, team, game or another way.

Remote patrol

  • Fill-in Cubs TV announcer Beth Mowins will be part of ESPN’s first NBA game announced and directed by all women. For the Warriors-Jazz game Wednesday, Mowins will be joined by analyst Doris Burke and reporter Lisa Salters. In addition, 33 other women will handle production roles at the game in Salt Lake City and in the ESPN control room in Bristol, Connecticut.
  • ESPN 1000 morning-show hosts David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood will call the Clash of Champions high school basketball games Saturday at Wintrust Arena on ESPN+. Glenbrook South plays Curie at 6 p.m., followed by Sierra Canyon (California), featuring LeBron James’ son Bronny, facing Sun-Times No. 1 Glenbard West at 8.
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