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 summer “I’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.
SHOULD THE NHL SPLIT MEDIA RIGHTS AMONG MULTIPLE PARTNERS?