It was no surprise when NBCUniversal announced it would be shutting down Olympic Channel : Home of Team USA effective September 30, less than a year after it shut down the profitable NBC Sports Network. Cord cutting and cord shaving are taking their toll on linear cable networks, as viewers continue to shift their video subscriptions from cable and satellite to over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix
But the case of Olympic Channel is unusual. The channel never should have been launched in the first place if NBCU wasn’t going to put high-profile Olympic games on the channel. The economics wouldn’t make sense given the fact that Olympic Channel has less than 50 million subscribers versus NBC which has nationwide reach.
Launched in 2017, the company aired some Olympic-related sports such as world championships. But it wasn’t until last year that the channel actually broadcast some Olympics events from Tokyo, but they were tennis and wrestling, not the biggest draw for viewers.
NBCU is clearly focused on its own OTT service called Peacock and it was unlikely the Olympic Channel would gain more carriage from traditional cable and satellite operators. Currently, the channel is generating over $40 million/year in cash flow. However, over time, that number would continue to shrink as its subscriber numbers decline, and eventually go negative.
And given that there is no high-profile programming on the channel, it’s unlikely to be attractive to advertisers. According to Nielsen Media Research, Olympic Channel was viewed by less than 13,000 people, on average, during most of the first quarter of this year.