New Year Ushers End to Several Cable Networks

(Image credit: NBC Sports)

With the ushering in of the the new year came the demise of several cable networks which ceased operations by January 1.

NBC Sports pulled the plug on its national sports network NBCSN, nearly a decade after being rebranded from the former Versus network. The network had served as the outlet for NBC Sports Premier League Soccer and NASCAR auto racing programming – all of which will now shift to USA Network and NBCU’s streaming service Peacock, according to network officials. 

Year's end often brings at least temporary outages of channels as carriage agreements expire. In other cases, disputes get settled, as was the case with Mediacom's cable operations and Paxton Media's NBC-affiliated TV station in Paducah, Kentucky

Originally launched as the Outdoor Life Network in 1995 and later renamed Versus in 2006, NBCSN was also the home of NBC Sports’ National Hockey League coverage before losing league TV rights to ESPN/TNT in 2021. 

 “We are excited to transition the cable coverage of many of our premium sports events to USA Network, Peacock, and other widely-distributed NBCUniversal platforms, which will give us a significant boost in television homes and will put us in an even stronger position as we grow our business,” said NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua in a statement.

ESPN Classic

(Image credit: Disney)

Another national sports network, ESPN Classic, closed its doors on Jan. 1. The service, originally launched in 1995 by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg as Classic Sports Network, was purchased by ESPN in 1997 and featured replays of vintage sports events and some live programming. The network in recent years had lost carriage to other ESPN-owned sports services before being decommissioned on Saturday.


(Image credit: Univision)

Univision on December 31 also ceased operations for its English-language cable news and lifestyle network Fusion TV. The Spanish-language network launched Fusion TV in 2013 in an effort to reach young, Hispanic viewers.

Univision pulled the plug on Fusion TV to turn its focus toward serving Spanish-language audiences, according to Forbes

In a statement Univision said: “As a company and a brand, Univision is committed to serving Spanish-language audiences, currently in the U.S. and soon globally with the launch of our streaming service in 2022. To continue delivering on that mission, our sole focus will be on this growing audience – currently nearly 600 million strong – and, to that end, we ceased operations of English-language network, Fusion TV on December 31, 2021. With this renewed direction under our new leadership, Univision is doubling down on its focus and strategic investments to fill the need for in-language and in-culture content for Spanish-speaking audiences around the world.”■

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.