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NBC Regional Sports Networks Planning Direct-to-Consumer Streaming

by Joe Binder

Update from NBCUniversal Local spokesperson (February 1, 2022): “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. 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.” 

This walking back of comments can be frustrating for those of you excited by this offering, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that DTC isn’t coming. NBCUniversal has been exploring this sort of service for years, meaning it will likely be here at some point. It’s just going to be a matter of time, especially with NBCU still having to reach agreements with sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL, etc.) and cable providers – which is where things get a little tricky

RSNs make most of their money through cable subscriptions and have multi-year deals with these distributors in place. Suddenly, offer a DTC service that pretty much cuts cable out of the picture, and you’re instantly walking a fine line. NBCU will hae to find a way to maintain a balance to keep the revenue coming from these providers, while also finding a way to make advancements with their DTC offering.

Though it may not be this year, a DTC platform containing NBC Sports Chicago should be making its arrival someday. Be patient.

Some changes could be coming to the way NBC Sports Chicago is offered in the not-so-distant future.

NBCUniversal announced the promotion of Valari Dobson Staab on Monday as its first-ever chairman of NBCUniversal Local, a division of the company that includes NBC’s local stations, the Telemundo-owned stations, and the NBC regional sports networks (RSNs). The addition of Staab’s new role brings an increased emphasis on streaming, with the company unveiling plans to launch a direct-to-consumer (DTC) offering of their regional sports networks later in the year.

Though details are incredibly vague at the moment, here’s what NBC had to say regarding the development in today’s press release:

Last year, NBC’s Regional Sports Networks were integrated with the NBC/Telemundo owned stations helping to create the only network-owned local media division that can deliver audiences the very best in local sports, news and weather in English and Spanish and across any screen and multiple platforms. The Regional Sports Networks plan to debut their own direct-to-consumer products later this year. 

Let’s analyze this a little more and see what this could mean in terms of streaming NBC Sports Chicago’s programming.

To put it simply, this new DTC offering could allow you to get NBC Sports Chicago directly without having to pay for cable or another streaming service. Looking a little deeper, we’ll use Sinclair Broadcasting as an example since they have been planning the same sort of DTC offering of their RSNs. Sinclair’s RSNs are known as the Bally Sports Regional Networks, formerly recognized as the Fox Sports Networks prior to 2021.

It’s been reported that as part of the new DTC offering, these networks would be available to consumers at a fee ranging anywhere from $23 per month to $225 per year on a proposed standalone app. Though nothing’s set in stone yet, one could figure we might see a similar sort of monthly price range for NBC’s upcoming service if they follow a similar trajectory.

It’s worth noting in this conversation that, unlike Bally Sports’ RSNs, NBC’s are not only owned by Comcast but also currently available on a wider range of streaming platforms like Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, YouTube TV, and DirectTV Stream. The entry price for the aforementioned services is $64.99, albeit the RSNs are accompanied by a wide range of other channels as well. There’s no word yet on how a DTC offering would affect NBC Sports Chicago’s availability on these services or even cable for that matter. Will they remain available or could they be dropped for their own separate platform?

Looking at it from a short-term perspective, it would make sense for an NBC Sports Chicago to remain available on everything as it’s easy to include in general packages paid for by every subscriber. Should you just include RSNs in a DTC offering, things could become problematic since fans of one sport may only subscribe for a few months and then ditch the service during the offseason. A way around this would be for NBCUniversal to offer a slightly discounted annual price to attract yearly subscriptions or just include it with its other streaming offerings.

In the long-term, it’s easy to speculate that RSNs could become like any other standalone streaming platform. This sort of move would eliminate negotiating costs between third-party distributors, allow for direct profit, and much more control by the company when shaping their customer’s overall viewing experience. All of these things would ultimately play in that company’s favor when it comes down to making future deals with the various sports teams they broadcast.

With so much unknown at the birth of this shift, speculation will likely continue until more details are made public. There is currently no timetable for the NBC Regional Sports Networks direct-to-consumer rollout, so no need to cut your cable just yet if everything still seems a bit confusing.

We will provide updates as we learn more. Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th!

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Interesting article I just read here on your blog, I am following your articles a few days and there is a lot of interesting information I liked. Baixe aqui

Doug W

I look forward to something like this. We don’t have cable and don’t want it. Pay for too much junk. Would love to pay for just the Sox and Blackhawks. $25/month would be OK as long as can also get the replays of the games on demand.

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