In January, it was widely reported that NBC would be shutting down NBCSN by the end of the year. Six months after that original report, NBCSN is still rolling right along with live coverage of the Olympics. The network also won’t be shutting down in August, which we’ve deduced thanks to the announcement of the Premier League schedule for the first three matchweeks (the release also doesn’t mention USA, presumed to be the eventual home of NBC’s remaining live sports). It won’t be shutting down in September, because IndyCar’s schedule (from March) has an NBCSN race at the end of the month (along with three more in August). October is also out, thanks to a trio of races from the Cup and Xfinity series. There’s also an early November Xfinity race on cable, and the Grambling-Southern Bayou Classic at the end of the month (thanks to Daniel Ormsby for the tip on that one).
These events in and of themselves don’t prove that NBCSN will still be around, as single events can have their networks shifted, but the fact that there is at least *some* live content scheduled on the network in the fall shows that NBC isn’t ready to pull the plug quite yet.
So, when *will* NBCSN shut down? We may literally go until the end of the year before the network goes dark.
This inference comes from a press release last week, announcing NBC’s agreement with the International Chess Federation (seriously). The release notes that NBCSN will be airing half hour broadcasts of the FIDE World Championship, which runs from November 26th through December 16th.
Organized by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the event will see the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, defend his title in a 14-game matchup against his Challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. The two players will compete for a prize fund of EUR 2 million (USD 2,360,000). Initially planned for 2020, and postponed due to the pandemic, this clash between the two best chess Grandmasters in the world will finally take place between 26 November and 16 December 2021.
Starting on 27 November, 2021, the daily 30-minute shows on NBCSN from the FIDE World Championship Match 2021 will bring the highlights of each game not only to the hardcore chess fans but to the much wider and highly-engaged community of sports lovers throughout the United States. Each highlight show will be replayed the day after it premieres, totaling one hour of chess content every night, starting on 28 November and for the remaining duration of the match.
If NBCSN wasn’t going to be around in December, who would the release even mention the network? NBC isn’t playing coy with their plans – the release about the new IndyCar deal states that races in 2022 will be on NBC, Peacock, and USA.
If we had to pick a time for the network to shut down after December 16th, it would be sometime after Sunday, December 19th. The Premier League has a full slate of games on the weekend of the 18th, and also has midweek games on the 14th and 15th. To me, it would be strange if a midweek game or two aired on NBCSN along with the chess, and the weekend games were on a different network.
December 26th, Boxing Day, is a traditional day of games for the Premier League. With it falling on a Sunday this year, and Christmas on a Saturday, it would be logical for NBC to shutter NBCSN in the days before, starting fresh for a marquee day of games. If it doesn’t shut down before Boxing Day, we’ll likely go into January 2022: the Premier League also has a full midweek slate following Boxing Day, and a full weekend schedule on New Year’s Day. It’s sensible to shut the network down at the end of the year, but with a full schedule of live events on a holiday, it might be more sensible to give it a couple extra days.
I do think the first two weeks of January are the absolute end of the line, however. January 8th is an FA Cup weekend (an ESPN property), so NBC won’t have Premier League matches to worry about. That’s also Week 18 of the NFL season, which could provide another clean break for NBC’s coverage if they bring PFT Live back following the Olympics.
My official prediction? I’m leaning towards “around Christmas.” It just seems like the best fit. If not then, sometime during the first two weeks of January also seems like a great bet. But if we get to the Premier League matches on January 15th and NBCSN is still airing live games, the shutdown date will be anyone’s best guess.
(thanks to Twitter user @gregfra for the story idea)