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In 2000, NBC declined to renew its broadcast agreement with Major League Baseball. In 2002, it was additionally outbid by ESPN and ABC for the NBA’s new broadcast contract, ending the league’s twelve-year run on NBC.
During this era, NBC experimented with broadcasting emerging sports. In 2001, the network partnered with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) to establish the XFL – a new football league which introduced modified rules and debuted to tremendous, but short-lived fanfare, only lasting one season (NBC shared broadcast rights to the league’s games, which were mainly held on Saturday nights, with UPN). In 2003, NBC obtained the broadcast rights and a minority interest in the Arena Football League. The network televised weekly games on a regional basis, as well as the entire playoffs. The deal lasted four years, after which the league and NBC parted ways.
Beginning with the 1999 Pennzoil 400, NBC began its foray into NASCAR. NBC, along with Fox, FX and TNT, obtained the broadcast rights of the top two series – the Winston Cup and Busch Series – in a six-year deal, beginning in 2001. NBC televised the second half of the season and alternated coverage of the Daytona 500 with Fox. In December 2005, NBC announced that it would not renew its agreement with NASCAR. In 2001, NBC obtained the broadcast rights to horse racing’s Triple Crown in a five-year deal.
In 2004, NBC reached a broadcast agreement with the National Hockey League (NHL). The revenue-sharing deal called for the two sides to split advertising revenue after the network recouped the expenses. Games were supposed to begin airing on the network during the 2004–05 season, however a league lockout that resulted in the cancellation of that season delayed the start of the contract until the second half of the 2005–06 season. NBC televised regular season games at first on Saturday afternoons before moving the telecast to Sundays, Saturday and Sunday afternoon playoff games, and up to five games of the Stanley Cup Final. Additionally in 2008, NBC broadcast the first Winter Classic, an outdoor NHL game played on New Year’s Day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a success in attendance and television ratings. The following year’s Winter Classic would become the most-watched regular season game in 34 years. In addition to this regular season success, Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final was watched by an average of 8 million viewers, the highest ratings for an NHL game in 36 years.
The NFL also returned to NBC in 2006 after an eight-year hiatus, broadcasting the league’s new flagship Sunday Night Football game, along with select postseason games and Super Bowls XLIII, XLVI, XLIX, LII and LVI.
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NBC Sports is an American programming division of the broadcast network NBC, owned and operated by NBC Sports Group division of NBCUniversal and subsidiary of Comcast, that is responsible for sports broadcasts on the network, and its dedicated national sports cable channels. Formerly operating as “a service of NBC News”, it broadcasts a diverse array of sports events, including the French Open, the IndyCar Series, NASCAR, the NFL, the NHL, Notre Dame football, Olympic Games, the PGA Tour, the Premier League, the Tour de France and the Triple Crown, among others. Other programming from outside producers – such as coverage of the Ironman Triathlon – is also presented on the network through NBC Sports. With Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011, its own cable sports networks were aligned with NBC Sports into a part of the division known as the NBC Sports Group