When the Premier Lacrosse League opens their 2021 season the weekend of June 4th, fans can find them in a new broadcast home. Earlier this month the PLL announced a new exclusive streaming partnership with Peacock, NBCUniversal’s newest streaming service. This will mark the third season of the partnership between the PLL and NBC.
The change is not surprising given NBC announced plans to shut down NBC Sports Network at the end of this calendar year. It left sports and leagues like the PLL to look for a new home. Peacock boasts shows and sports including IndyCar practice and qualifying sessions, WWE events and programming, men’s and women’s golf, and, it’s expected, more sports programming as the Olympics approach.
NBCSN has been on the air since 1995, originally as the Outdoor Life Network. As online streaming platforms continue to change how consumers view television, it is not all that surprising NBC would make the change – not just shutting down such a longstanding channel, but the creation of a new, dedicated streaming service for more than just sports content.
The PLL will return to a full 43-game, 11-weekend, tour-style schedule in 2021 – a change from their pandemic-forced, two-week long Championship Bubble that constituted the entire 2020 season. The Bubble played host to 20 games – 10 on NBCSN, six exclusive to NBC Gold and four on “Big NBC” (the main network channel). It’s important to note, some of those games on NBC were scheduled in slots vacated by last year’s postponement of the Olympic Games. Those games have been rescheduled for July 23rd to August 8th.
While full details of the PLL schedule have yet to be released, the league will be in direct competition with not only those Games should a tour stop be scheduled over the two week span (stretching further if you include the rescheduled Paralympics August 24th through September 5th), but also the completion of the NHL Playoffs.
It’s worth mentioning that Peacock Premium is $4.99 per month, and not available in Canada (at the time of this writing). Unfortunately, being relegated to back channels or behind paywalls is not uncommon for lacrosse fans. When compared to mega-ratings events like the Stanley Cup Playoffs or The Olympics, it’s not surprising why a third-year lacrosse tour would be pushed aside. Having said that, the plan for 2021 currently allows for “more than half” of the PLL’s scheduled games to be aired on television through the NBCU family. NBC’s arm reaches the furthest of any industry giants, leading the charge in 2020 averaging 228.2 million viewers across all dayparts (per Deadline).
Last year provided the opportunity for the PLL to jump into vacated television timeslots on Big NBC. That was fun. NBC coverage allows for non-lacrosse fans to ‘accidentally’ discover the sport while channel flipping. The question is always, will non-fans be willing to pay for content they’re unsure of? Even for a company with the reach of NBC, that’s probably a stretch.