The past couple of years have seen NBC emphasizing connections across their regional sports networks, from changing the network names from “Comcast” to “NBC Sports” to hiring Tom Haberstroh as a national NBA insider for the RSNs to launching the MyTeams app to teaming with Religion of Sports for short-form and long-form mental health features aired across the networks to launching a cross-RSN “Sports Uncovered” podcast featuring talent and stories from the different RSNs. Now, NBC is again using their RSNs to boost the signal of particular content. They announced Friday that they’ll be airing a special “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” show Monday night across NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, and the NBC RSNs. Here’s more on that special:
Monday at 8 p.m. ET, celebrity athletes – including two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and Basketball Hall-of-Famer and TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley – will be featured on Race and Sports in America: Conversations, a wide-ranging roundtable discussion special that will simulcast on GOLF Channel, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), NBC Sports Regional Networks and the Olympic Channel.
…Hosted by Damon Hack (GOLF Channel / NBC Sports), and filmed Thursday at the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, the primetime special will focus on topics ranging from social justice, locker room conversations about race, and ways that sports can help combat inequality. Additional subjects will include the relationship between athletes and law enforcement, reaction to George Floyd’s death and reflections on personal experiences in the weeks since, and thoughts on what the conversations should be a year from now.
Additional athletes joining Curry and Barkley on Race & Sports in America include:
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion Shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings Tight End
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer
This seems like a logical play from NBC on a few fronts. They were already broadcasting the American Century Championship, which features an incredible array of prominent sports personalities in one place, and if those personalities are willing to talk about these kinds of serious issues while there, that could make for a good special. And it makes some sense to broadcast this not just on NBCSN, but also Golf Channel, the Olympic Channel, and the RSNs; with most sports still on pause, there isn’t a lot of other good content going on at those networks right now. And this is building off what the various RSNs have already done with “Race In America” branded TV specials and podcast series, which we’ve seen from NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Washington , NBC Sports Bay Area and more.
Putting this on multiple networks should increase the reach of this special a bit. It doesn’t matter so much in terms of how many people have access to it, as NBCSN is already pretty widely-distributed, but this is probably more important for getting people who just happen to flip to that channel. ESPN’s been doing that a lot this spring and summer with their new documentaries, simulcasting many of them on ESPN2 (that’s sometimes involved a language-censored version, but not always), and they’ve seen good viewership boosts from including the ESPN2 numbers.
And it’s interesting to see NBC come out with another cross-RSN initiative. Back when Disney bought the Fox RSNs (before they were forced to sell them as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice to let their purchases of other Fox assets go through; Sinclair eventually acquired them), there was a lot of discussion about potential talent-sharing and content-sharing benefits from having both national cable networks and RSNs. (Fox obviously also had national networks and regional networks as well, especially once they converted Speed and Fuel TV to FS1 and FS2 in 2013, but there wasn’t always a lot of national/regional integration there.) That didn’t wind up happening with Disney and ESPN because of that forced sale of the RSNs, but we’re now starting to see that approach more and more from NBC with their RSNs. We’ll see where they go next with that.