NHL Considering Splitting Media Rights Among Multiple Partners

The Sports Business Journal reported on Monday that The NHL is considering potentially splitting its media rights among multiple partners. In addition, the report stated that ESPN and Fox Sports have already shown preliminary interest in acquiring shared rights.

According to the SBJ report, the NHL has already received interest in carrying the league’s games from both traditional linear TV networks and digital technology companies. The NHL’s current deal with NBC ends following the 2020-21 season. With two more seasons to go on the existing deal, negotiations have not yet formerly commenced.

According to Sports Media Watch, the SBJ report also notes that “Turner Sports had recently shown interest in an NHL package, but that was under the stewardship of David Levy, who departed earlier this year. There is no word on whether that has changed now that Jeff Zucker is in charge.”


The NHL has history with ESPN, with games airing there from 1980-82, 1985-88, and 1992-2004. Since that time, the league has been on NBC and Versus/NBCSN in addition to its own NHL Network.

SportsCenter anchor, college hockey play-by-play voice. and noted hockey fan John Buccigross told BSN Denver last summerI’m real optimistic that we’ll be a part of the NHL plan next time, and that’s starting to look less and less far-fetched.


While ESPN regained the national hockey contract in 1992–93 (as previously mentioned), they were joined by the Fox network in 1994–95. Fox televised between five and eleven regionally distributed games on Saturday or Sunday afternoons during the regular season, where anywhere from three to six games ran concurrently.

The deal between Fox and the league ended in 1999 when the NHL announced a new TV deal with ESPN that also called for ABC to become the new network TV partner. Fox challenged that it had not been given a chance to match the network component of the deal, but ABC ultimately prevailed.


About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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3 Responses to NHL Considering Splitting Media Rights Among Multiple Partners

  1. Anonymous says:

    The more competition, the better the product and value to the customer (Business 101)

  2. Day One Caps Fan says:

    The National Hockey League on network television: How Full Circle we have come!
    The NHL has traditionally been the red-haired stepchild of big network sports. We ancient fans remember years, whole DECADES where the NHL plied its trade with no national television presence. This included many years where the Caps and the rest of the NHL essentially could not be seen on a television except on a few regional networks, especially New England Sports Network and that was unavailable outside of the Boston-NY metro areas and a few VERY expensive pay-for cable networks.

    Anybody on NovaCapsFans remember when PBS showed an NHL Game of the Week? It was in the early 1970s, and Channel 26 in Washington would serve up six or seven games, weeknights only. California Golden Seals, anybody? Colorado Rockies? This arrangement fizzled out before the Caps got their franchise in 1974.

    This story is fun for a few reasons. First there is the sneering, politically evil ESPN, who had a pretty good NHL TV contract and a run for some years in the 1990s. But high brass at ESPN dropped NHL like a hot hockey stick, explaining that they brilliantly divested a sure loser and would laugh as the NHL sputtered into non-existence! Then there was the always hilarious “OLN” network and its child called “Versus” who broke the anti-ice-hockey taboo and brought NHL back to cable TV ~ 2005. I can’t stand Gary Buttman but this one he got right, negotiating television rights with the Versus bunch. The NHL was on TV again!

    But back to ESPN: That outrageously overrated, greedy bunch dumped the NHL and taunted its fan base, predicting massive losses followed by failure and oblivion! It didn’t happen that way, Bristol, Connecticut morons! Now we get to see the plunging-viewership, outrageously expensive subscription ESPN crawling back to the NHL on its knees. And suddenly the ugly duckling, monolithic NHL with its neanderthal fan base is a MONEY MONSTER, growing boundlessly, with expansion teams who scrape up BILLION DOLLARS CASH down-payment to begin operations anywhere they can!

    The National Broadcasting Company carried the NHL for some years in the 1960s and 1970s and didn’t complain about its “regional” character. I remember watching the Stanley Cup clinching Game Four performance of BOS vs STL in 1970 with the flying Bobby Orr scoring the series-winning goal. That game was televised on national NBC and I watched it with my dad and uncle in Northern Virginia … because my uncle, who had a lot of money, also had this mysterious commodity that we all craved at the time: A Color TV set! So Mr. Orr was wearing his Bruins Blacks and the Blues were in White with Blue trim.

    The NHL will come back down to earth at some future time. They are overextended, with too many franchises, many in bizarre non-hockey markets that support a winning team pretty well but lose MILLIONS when they’re losing. We have this hideous “Blood Money” phase where one can bribe the NHL Commissioner with five or six or seven HUNDRED MILLION dollars US, and voila! You have an expansion franchise, where just ten years ago explosive expansion markets like Quebec and Hamilton Ontario weren’t even allowed to make an offer!

    I think NBC and its Comcast subsidiary has done a fine job in television the NHL. It’s hard to complain when many of the biggest NHL games are available on over-the-air television (That’s UHF and VHF for you Millennials, you buy this gadget called and “antenna” and connect it to the coaxial conne … oops I forgot, Millennials don’t do engineering). It’s good to see NBC back to its 1968 NHL roots. Spreading the NHL television rights to the odious ESPN and unreliable FOX Sports is risky for many reasons, and potentially greedy for more reasons. But NHL and Buttman are flying high in 2019, and might as well belly up to the Gravy Train.

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