ESPN Classic, the Fusion Network, and the NBC Sports Network all will be ceasing operations as of December 31, 2021, according to the parent companies of those channels. They have informed Hardy that these channels are going off the air for all TV providers; in short, the programmers are permanently shutting down the stations. This will apply to all TV providers – the moves are not part of a negotiating process or price dispute. This is the stations themselves deciding to shut down operations.
In many cases, network programmers will move popular shows or content to another channel – or more recently, to a streaming service – owned by the same parent company. In the case of ESPN Classic, much of that channel’s content now is available on ESPN+, the sports network’s subscription streaming service. ESPN+ is not available for broadcast by TV providers; rather, it requires a separate subscription and is accessed via the Internet for computer, mobile devices or smart TVs.
In the case of the NBC Sports Network, the network has indicated that it will be airing more sports-related content on its USA Network and the separate streaming service, Peacock. Sports including NASCAR and other racing, USGA golf events, Olympic events, and the Tour de France cycling event all will receive more time on the USA Network starting in 2022. The Peacock streaming service features the same sports, along with Sunday Night Football, Notre Dame home football games and soccer’s Premier League. Like ESPN+, Peacock is not available for broadcast by TV providers and must be purchased and streamed through a separate customer subscription.
Derek Barr, Hardy’s assistant general manager, said the moves by programmers are consistent with recent trends to consolidate channels and promote streaming networks.
“The big content companies have decided that streaming is where they want to focus their business and resources, even as they raise prices on traditional TV providers to fund streaming content,” he said. “I expect we’ll see more and more programming moving exclusively to streaming platforms.”
Derek reiterated that the shutting down of ESPN Classic, Fusion Network and the NBC Sports Network was the decision of the programmers, and the channels will no longer be available to any TV provider.
“The networks have decided to end these channels permanently,” he said.
He added that OneNet was in the process of finalizing new contracts for the rest of its channel lineup, at which time it will evaluate its content costs for 2022. Then Hardy will evaluate its current programming surcharge and adjust accordingly, if feasible.