ESPN is returning to the ice with the National Hockey League, signing a seven year deal that will put Stanley Cup games on ABC, which like ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
The deal also includes putting 75 games on Disney’s ESPN Plus and Hulu streaming services.
The league’s out-of-market streaming package is moving from NHL.TV to become part of an ESPN Plus subscription, giving those subscribers access to more than 1,000 games a year.
The NHL is still talking with Comcast’s NBCUniversal, which is its current television partner. NBCU is shutting down its NBCSN cable channel, but could carry hockey on NBC and USA Network.
“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”
Financial terms were not disclosed.
“This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company’s leadership in the sports media landscape and serves as a blueprint for sports deals in the future," said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN. “We know the power of the NHL and are thrilled to welcome it back as a significant new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sports world’s most passionate fans.”
ABC will have exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final in four of the seven years of the agreement. Disney can simulcast those games on ESPN properties including ESPN Plus.
There will be 25 exclusive national regular season games on ABC or ESPN each year, with 75 national games streaming on ESPN and Hulu.
In each season, ESPN and ABC will have live, exclusive coverage of one Conference Final series and half of all First Round and Second Round games from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Disney’s networks will also have coverage of the NHL Face-off on opening night, the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge each season, plus other events the league plans to create.
Comcast’s NBC Sports has been paying the NHL $2 billion a year under a 10 year deal that expires after this season.
Comcast, which owns part of the Philadelphia Flyers, picked up the rights to the NHL after ESPN decided not to renew its contract in 2005. Games were televised on what was then OLN, which eventually became NBCSN.
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