NHL broadcast, media rights deals with ESPN, Turner explained

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Starting next season, NHL games will be broadcast on network properties that are no longer affiliated with (or on) NBC, whose exclusive broadcast rights agreement with the league will expire at the end of the final. of this year’s Stanley Cup.

The NHL knew that the right business decision would be to partner with multiple broadcast entities. NBC is no longer one of them, because ESPN (more broadly, the Walt Disney Company) and Turner Sports (more broadly, Warner Media) are the rights holders.

Each partner brings visibility – and donates hundreds of millions of dollars a year – to a league in need.

“We have had ongoing conversations over the past few months and over the past few weeks it has reached a new level,” WarnerMedia and Sports President Jeff Zucker said on Tuesday in a joint announcement with the Commissioner. of the NHL, Gary Bettman.

To better understand how this is changing league consumption, here’s what you need to know:

The breakdown

The ESPN and Turner deals are both for seven years and will expire after the 2027-2028 season.

ESPN has the upper hand and could be considered the “primary” broadcast partner in this arrangement as ABC will broadcast four of the next seven Stanley Cup Finals every two years, starting in 2022.

Turner will broadcast all three Stanley Cup Finals in the intervening years.

Before the Cup Final, the two networks will share the first two rounds of the playoffs and the conference finals.

Turner will air the annual Winter Classic on New Years Day.

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Twenty-five regular season games will air on ESPN or ABC, while an additional 75 games will air on ESPN + and Hulu. Every non-market game previously available through NHL.TV will be on ESPN +, which will replace NHL.TV.

Turner has the rights to 72 regular season games.

When will the games be released?

With nearly three times the number of games shown on linear TV compared to ESPN and an already strong sports programming schedule (MLB, NBA, AEW), Turner must determine which night of the week he wants to focus on the coverage. of the NHL.

But Zucker provided little information on the matter and said those decisions would be made in the coming weeks.

The NBA currently airs Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The MLB playoffs shouldn’t provide a lot of obstacles, but the introduction of Tuesday night games certainly will. AEW currently has Wednesdays on TNT.

Of course, Turner also has TBS at his disposal and will be putting a lot of games there.

On ESPN’s side, a weekend contest on ABC makes sense, as does a midweek deal for the cable channel.

How much money are the offers worth?

Neither network is going to scream, and the NHL wants to be shy.

“It’s good (for the league),” Bettman said, although he would not disclose the terms of either agreement.

According to the New York Post, the Disney deal is about $ 400 million a year, while Turner pays around $ 225 million a year.

“We think the arrangements we have now reflect a lot more of the value we bring as compelling content,” Bettman said.

How will the money affect the salary cap?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, probably not much, at least in the short term.

Bettman said the salary cap will remain unchanged until the money placed in escrow, a six-year CBA condition agreed to last year as part of the “back to play” plan, is paid back. The increase in silver could, however, shorten the period of stagnation of the cap.

The digital aspect

With ESPN placing games on ESPN +, its direct-to-consumer platform, Turner could do the same with HBO Max under the WarnerMedia umbrella.

Zucker explained that it won’t be in 2021, but the option is there.

“This will happen in the years to come as HBO Max continues to grow and becomes a bigger hotbed of these kinds of events,” he said. “For now, the focus will be on the Turner Networks.”

Turner also plans to leverage its digital properties through the deal, as Bleacher Report and House of Highlights gained access to NHL highlights through the deal.

“We have a real fire hose with Bleacher Report and House of Highlights to reach young viewers in a way that is quite unique in the sports landscape,” Zucker said. “Bleacher and HoH and their social reach are unprecedented. This is something we’re very excited about building.”

Inside the … NHL?

Turner’s NBA coverage, particularly the studio show “Inside the NBA”, has garnered praise over the years, and the Emmy Awards are proof of his success.

It won’t happen overnight – and the personalities available to them won’t rival those of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith – but the league and Turner recognize the value that organic programming can bring to viewers and popularity in general.

“It’s the sensibility and style with which we approach our coverage that we will also bring here,” Zucker said. “And I think it’s innovative, fun and dynamic, and I think, again, it’s widely recognized with our NBA coverage, so that’s what we want to do with the NHL.

Bettman intervened: “That’s what gets us excited. We are counting on it.

Zucker has not made any announcements regarding hosts or analysts for these future shows.

ESPN and Turner already share NBA rights

Disney and WarnerMedia are the two network broadcast partners of the NBA, so there is a level of familiarity and institutional knowledge.

This will facilitate planning and there will be opportunities for cross promotion.

“I know Adam Silver is incredibly excited to have the NHL in this family too,” Zucker said. I spoke to him and he expressed it. I think everyone feels good there and the story bodes very well for that.

Current NBC deal will not be affected

Bettman was clear he was confident that NBC would honor its end of contract and not lower the caliber of the shows.

“NBC has reconfirmed that to me,” he said. “We shouldn’t expect any difference in the treatment we are going to receive compared to what we have received in our relationship.

“We go our separate ways as friends and look forward to the future, each of us understanding why we made the decisions we both made to get to this point.”

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.



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