NHL, CBC high-sticking together

Deal through 2014 season includes digital rights

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said Monday that it has renewed "Hockey Night in Canada," now in its 54th year on the public broadcaster, through the 2013-14 season as part of a deal with the NHL.

The contract renewal for free, over-the-air Canadian TV rights also includes first-time digital rights that will see the pubcaster streaming hockey games on the Internet and cell phones as part of live or VOD offerings.

The CBC did not disclose financial terms of its latest deal with the NHL, but it is understood that the pubcaster will pay CAN$85 million ($72.6 million) a year for the NHL package, up from the CAN$60 million ($51 million) paid annually as part of the previous deal.

The NHL has a less lucrative TV deal in the U.S. market, where professional hockey has little of the TV drawing power it enjoys in Canada.

South of the border, NBC pays nothing up front for the rights to some regular-season games and the Stanley Cup Finals, instead splitting advertising revenue with the league.

As part of the new deal, the CBC will continue airing NHL playoff games and retain exclusive rights to the Stanley Cup championship round each May. It also will retain exclusive Canadian rights to the NHL All-Star Game and the NHL awards ceremony at the end of each season.

"This is where we felt hockey should be," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters during a Toronto news conference.

The agreement follows nearly a year of negotiations that began with the NHL fielding and receiving interest from rival Canadian broadcasters to gain leverage at the bargaining table with the CBC.

The Sports Network, Canada's cable sports channel owned and operated by rival broadcaster CTV Inc., is expected to gain first-time access to early-round NHL playoff games when it signs its cable rights deal with the NHL, expected to be unveiled shortly.
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