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The TV/streaming balancing act

WASHINGTON (Axios): As cable TV dies a slow and inevitable death, networks are hedging their bets by moving more content over to streaming services.

Yes, but: With tens of millions of Americans still subscribed to cable, networks can’t abandon pay TV, forcing them to find a delicate balance between both worlds.

Driving the news: Comcast’s NBCUniversal this month announced that it will shut down its sports network, NBCSN, by the end of the year and move some of its premium programming to USA Network and its Peacock streaming service.

NBCU is hopeful that beefing up USA Network will strengthen the network’s appeal in cable and satellite negotiations, Axios’ Sara Fischer reports.

But long-term, this move is about building Peacock — now the exclusive home of WWE — into a bona fide competitor to Netflix, ESPN+ and other streaming services.

The big picture: It’s obvious that streaming will win the war. But legacy TV will win some battles along the way, starting with the all-important NFL rights, which are up for renewal in 2022.

Though even with the NFL, which was responsible for 71 of last year’s 100 biggest TV audiences, streaming could play a major role sooner than some might think.

CAA’s Nick Khan, the “Scott Boras of sports media,” told the New York Post that he thinks Amazon will get exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football,” while the incumbent networks (Fox, CBS, NBC, ESPN) keep their packages.

The bottom line: In a world where disruption seems to happen overnight (i.e. Uber upending taxis), the decline of cable is going to be a much slower process.

As a result, we’ll be living in “The In-Between” for the foreseeable future, with live sports spread out across broadcast, streaming and pay TV.

The key to survival: Remembering all of your passwords.

P.S. … While “TV vs. streaming” garners most of the attention, let’s not forget about what’s happening with “old cable vs. new cable.”

YouTube TV, Hulu, Sling and FuboTV have dropped the 21 Sinclair-owned Fox Sports regional networks — recently rebranded as Bally’s Sports — from their offerings.

That means NHL and NBA fans in Arizona, Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Tampa, St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbus, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Dallas, Nashville and Tampa are currently unable to watch their teams without traditional cable.

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