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NHL ‘reaches seven-year deal to return to ESPN’ as NBC’s 10-year, $2 billion contract ends in June

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NHL reaches seven-year deal to return to ESPN ‘as Fox Sports and CBS are also expected to bid on league games’ with NBC’s exclusive 10-year, $2billion US media rights deal ending in June

  • The National Hockey League will return to ESPN beginning next season, but a price tag for the new seven-year deal has not been disclosed publicly
  • As part of the deal, ESPN will broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals four times
  • NBC is in the final season of a 10-year contract worth $2 billion that gives it national NHL rights, but the league will air on multiple networks in its next deal
  • ESPN started airing NHL games when it went on the air in 1979 by making deals with individual teams. It had national NHL rights from 1985-88 and 1992-2004
  • Fox Sports and CBS are also likely to put in bids. Where all three networks stand could become clearer after the NFL’s TV rights are finalized this week or next
  • Most of NBC’s games air on NBC Sports Network, but that is being shut down by the end of the year. Most of NBCSN’s events are being shifted to USA Network 
  • The ESPN/NHL deal relies heavily on the network’s streaming platform, ESPN+ 

The National Hockey League will return to ESPN beginning next season, but a price tag for the new seven-year deal has not been disclosed publicly. 

The deal stipulates that ESPN will broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals four times over the next seven years. The NHL is still expected to add at least one other national media partner as its exclusive 10-year, $2 billion contract with NBC is set to expire after the season.   

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman praised the move, saying it will help give the league access to more fans because it provides more streaming options. 

‘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,’ Bettman said in a statement. 

ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN+, boasts 12 million subscribers and Hulu, which is also a part of the Disney+ package, has 39.4 million.   

‘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,’ Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN and Sports Content for Disney said in a statement.

In this October 29, 2018, file photo, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference in New York. The NHL will return to ESPN beginning next season, but a price tag for the new seven-year deal have yet to be disclosed publicly

In this October 29, 2018, file photo, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference in New York. The NHL will return to ESPN beginning next season, but a price tag for the new seven-year deal have yet to be disclosed publicly

ESPN started airing NHL games when it went on the air in 1979 by making deals with individual teams. It had the national NHL rights from 1985-88 and 1992-2004. Pictured: ESPN host John Buccigross (left) and former Los Angeles Kings coach-turned-NHL analyst, Barry Melrose

ESPN started airing NHL games when it went on the air in 1979 by making deals with individual teams. It had the national NHL rights from 1985-88 and 1992-2004. Pictured: ESPN host John Buccigross (left) and former Los Angeles Kings coach-turned-NHL analyst, Barry Melrose

NBC is in the final season of a 10-year contract worth $2 billion that gives it national NHL rights, but the league will air on multiple networks in its next agreement.

ESPN started airing NHL games when it went on the air in 1979 by making deals with individual teams. It had the national NHL rights from 1985-88 and 1992-2004.

NBC has aired games since 2005 and is still among the bidders for the other part of the deal, which includes three Stanley Cup Finals.

Most of NBC’s games air on NBC Sports Network, but that channel is being shut down by the end of the year. Most of NBCSN’s events are being shifted to USA Network.

Fox Sports and CBS are also likely to put in bids. 

Fox had NHL rights from 1995-99 when time the network introduced the infamous 'glow puck,' which was intended to help TV audiences follow the action. The puck, which had censors implanted in its core, would create a special effect on the television screen: a dim glow when it moved slowly, but a bright red streak (pictured) whenever it gained momentum

Fox had NHL rights from 1995-99 when time the network introduced the infamous ‘glow puck,’ which was intended to help TV audiences follow the action. The puck, which had censors implanted in its core, would create a special effect on the television screen: a dim glow when it moved slowly, but a bright red streak (pictured) whenever it gained momentum

Close-up of a pair of hands that hold the two opened halves and electronic center of a FoxTrax (aka: glow puck), a specialized, illuminated puck used in the NHL between 1996 and 1998

Close-up of a pair of hands that hold the two opened halves and electronic center of a FoxTrax (aka: glow puck), a specialized, illuminated puck used in the NHL between 1996 and 1998

Fox had NHL rights from 1995-99 when time the network introduced the infamous ‘glow puck,’ which was intended to help TV audiences follow the action. The puck, which had censors implanted in its core, would create a special effect on the television screen: a dim glow when it moved slowly, but a bright red streak whenever it gained momentum. 

The glow puck ultimately proved to be unpopular with die-hard hockey fans, who found the special effects unnecessary and distracting,  

Where all three networks stand could become clearer after the NFL’s television rights are finalized this week or next. 

NBC’s deal with the English Premier League, which expires at the end of next season, is also up for renewal.

NBC hockey analysts Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss Game Two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins at the United Center on June 15, 2013. NBC has aired games since 2005 and is still among the bidders for the other part of the deal, which includes three Stanley Cup Finals. Most of NBC's games air on NBC Sports Network, but that channel is being shut down by the end of the year. Most of NBCSN's events are being shifted to USA Network

NBC hockey analysts Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss Game Two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins at the United Center on June 15, 2013. NBC has aired games since 2005 and is still among the bidders for the other part of the deal, which includes three Stanley Cup Finals. Most of NBC’s games air on NBC Sports Network, but that channel is being shut down by the end of the year. Most of NBCSN’s events are being shifted to USA Network

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