NBC to stream local sports channels on Peacock service this year

Signage for the NBCUniversal Peacock streaming service is displayed on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York on April 17, 2020.
Signage for the NBCUniversal Peacock streaming service is displayed on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York on April 17, 2020.Bloomberg photo by Gabby Jones

Comcast's NBCUniversal plans to begin streaming the broadcaster's regional sports networks later this year on Peacock, bolstering the programming lineup of its online video service.

The company has been negotiating streaming rights with teams and leagues, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said Thursday at a conference sponsored by Sports Business Journal.

The new rights will give Peacock more sports programming to attract new subscribers. Philadelphia-based Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, owns regional networks carrying the San Francisco Giants MLB team, basketball's Chicago Bulls and the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.

The sports channels have struggled as more people cancel their cable TV, depriving them of the revenue they need to pay for broadcast rights. Lazarus said Comcast still profits from the networks but added, "We're managing decline."

At some point, teams carried by the networks will take a "haircut" on rights fees because of the shrinking cable business, he said.

"The ecosystem won't support what we're currently paying," he said.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of regional sports channels, and NESN, which broadcasts the Boston Red Sox, launched streaming services earlier this year.

Lazarus suggested that teams and channel owners could share the upside of the streaming business, with franchises that sell more subscriptions in their markets getting higher rights fees.

"It's going to be more of a share-the-risk mentality," he said.