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NBCU retracts estimate for in-market regional sports streaming launch

NBCUniversal Media LLC may be eyeing entry into the streaming arena for in-market regional sports coverage, but the timing of such a gambit remains unclear.

Questions stem from a Jan. 31 announcement of the promotion of Valari Dobson Staab to the new position of chairman of NBCUniversal Local. Staab will oversee the NBC-owned-and-operated local stations, the Telemundo-owned stations and six NBC regional sports networks.

The Jan. 31 announcement also said the division expected RSN streaming launches later in 2022.

However, NBCU backtracked from that position Feb. 1. A spokesperson for NBCUniversal Local said the personnel-related announcement "inadvertently" included a reference to the NBC Sports Regional Networks' direct-to-consumer plans 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," according to the spokesperson. "At this time, we don't have any further details about launch plans including timing or markets. More information will be announced when available."

The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2021 that NBCU was exploring options for its RSNs, including adding them to aggregate streaming service Peacock or selling them outright.

Comcast Corp.'s NBCU Sports Regional Networks owns NBC Sports Philadelphia (US), NBC Sports California (US), NBC Sports Boston (US), NBC Sports Chicago (US), NBC Sports Bay Area (US) and NBC Sports Washington (US). It also holds a minority stake in and manages SportsNet New York (US), the regional home to MLB's New York Mets.

NBCU has been bolstering its core streaming service, Peacock, with sports — including coverage of the Olympics, NFL and Premier League soccer — to attract new subscribers and retain existing customers.

Last month, four NBC stations launched streaming news channels on Peacock. Streaming channels covering Los Angeles and New York are scheduled to follow in the months ahead, as are Telemundo entries in key markets.

Meanwhile, Sinclair and its subsidiary Diamond Sports Group LLC continue to push ahead with plans to flank linear coverage with an in-market streaming service that would launch this year. Diamond is the largest operator of RSNs in the U.S.

Sinclair, which bought 21 regional sports networks from Walt Disney Co. in August 2019, recently renewed in-market streaming rights with the NHL and NBA for the respective 12 and 16 clubs it provides linear coverage for. The company also has said it currently holds such streaming rights with four MLB clubs.