NBC Sports Wins $2B NHL Faceoff

Sports Group and the National Hockey League have reached a new 10-year rights
deal which is believed to be worth $2 billion.

Versus, which was paying $77 million a year for the cable rights to NHL games
became part of the NBC Sports Group when its owner, Comcast, acquired a
majority of NBC Universal earlier this year. NBC held the broadcast rights to
the NHL under a revenue sharing pact. The new rights deal is worth at least
double what the league had been receiving under the previous arrangement.

from the league and NBC declined to comment on the amount, although they did
confirm that NBC was paying a rights fee, rather than continuing the revenue
share arrangement.

"We are
staying in business together, at least for the next 10 years," said NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman during a conference call announcing the deal.

The new
deal increases the number of games that will be televised nationally to 100,
including the Game of the Week on NBC.

will have exclusivity for more of the games it shows on cable, making them more attractive to advertisers.

During the
playoffs, NBC Sports Group will televise every playoff game. If three games are
played at the same time, one of the games will appear on a major NBC cable
channel, according to Dick Ebersol, chairman of the NBC Sports Group. NBC
Sports will also have exclusivity  in the
second round of the playoffs, which means those games will not be televised by
the teams' regional sports networks.

NBC, which
has built the Winter Classic game on New Year's Day into a significant
event, also plans to create a new
franchise game on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

NBC Sports
Group  also acquired digital rights
across all platforms and devices for the games it televises.

NBC Sports
Group will also be building a new studio for NHL Network in Stamford, Conn.

"There is
nothing that fits the NBC Sports Group better on all platforms than the NHL,"
said Ebersol.

added that a new name for the Versus channel would be announced in the next 90
days. The new name will prominently include the NBC brand. NBC has already
added its branding to channels that had been part of the Comcast portfolio
including The Golf Channel and its regional sports networks.

The deal marks a continued comeback for the
NHL, which was badly hurt by a lockout during the 2004-05 season and
ditched by ESPN in 2005. That pushed the league onto the little watched channel
Versus and into a revenue sharing deal with NBC.

said he did not regret making the revenue sharing deal with NBC and that NBC as
a partner had been instrumental in helping to build the league.

ESPN and
Turner Broadcasting had also been interested in rights to the NHL, particularly
in exclusive coverage of the playoffs, but Bettman said it became clear the
league would stick with its incumbent. He said the NHL could be' the single
biggest beneficiary" of the combination of Comcast and NBCU.

"We are disciplined in our approach to negotiating sports rights and
are committed to providing quality programming that matters to our
audience, advertisers and distribution partners," said David Levy, president of
Turner Advertising, Distribution and Sports. "We think the NHL is an attractive property but we could not come up with a
business model that served our interests."

 Sources indicated that Turner might have put
the games on its TruTV channel, which carried college basketball during the
March Madness ofthe NCAA Basketball Tournament.

said it raked in record revenue this season and was projecting total revenue
of  $2.9 billion by the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The league
credited sponsorship and merchandise sales, corporate investment in its big
events and digital growth for its gains.

The league said all of its North American TV partners had viewership increases.
Regular season ratings on Versus were up 17% and the Winter Classic on NBC was
the most watched regular season game in 36 years.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.