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NHL Strikes 12-Year Canadian TV Deal Worth $4.9 billion

2012 NHL Winter Classic Action Shot - P
Getty

Cable sports channel Rogers Sportsnet outbid archrival TSN in the largest media rights deal in NHL history and Canada's largest-ever sports rights agreement.

TORONTO – The National Hockey League has vastly increased its TV rights revenue in Canada after cable channel Rogers Sportsnet outbid TSN for the broadcast rights to hockey for the next 12 years.

The landmark CDN $5.2 billion (US$4.94 billion) deal echoes the NHL's 10-year deal with NBC in the U.S. in ambition. It will see Sportsnet secure the exclusive English-language rights to TV hockey on all platforms for 12 years.

"The agreement is the largest media rights deal in NHL history and one of the largest media rights deals in Canadian history, including the largest-ever sports-media rights agreement," the NHL said.

NBC Sports Group in 2011 signed a 10-year deal for the U.S. market worth around CDN$2 billion ($1.9 billion) over 10 years.

The Canadian deal, starting with the 2014-2015 season and continuing through the 2025-2026 season, will cost Sportsnet CAN$300 million (US$284 million) in the first year. Costs will escalate to mid-CAN$500 million (US$474 milllion) in the final year of the contract term, according to the broadcaster.

That's a big jump in revenue for the NHL, which currently receives around CAN$190 million (US$180 million) annually from Canadian rights held by the CBC, TSN and RDS as part of a contract that runs through the end of the current season.

Sportsnet will also make an upfront payment of CAN$150 million (US$142 million), spread over the first two years.

To offset the steep cost of the NHL rights deal, Sportsnet has sub-licensed NHL game rights to the CBC for Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights and for playoff games. It also has a separate deal with TVA in Quebec.

The Canadian TV deal, while the biggest ever for the NHL, also marks the first time a major American sports league has given all national rights in one country to one broadcaster for a prolonged period, according to the NHL.

Canadian TV networks had been in intense talks with the NHL for a new TV deal, as live sports in hockey-mad Canada are a big draw for primetime audiences and advertisers.

Parent Rogers Communications, Canada's largest cable and mobile phone provider, has also invested heavily in Sportsnet to fend off competition from archrival TSN, which is owned and run by Bell Media.

“Sports content is a key strategic asset, and we’ve been investing significantly to strengthen our sports offering to Canadians,” said Nadir Mohamed, president and CEO of Rogers Communications.

“Canadians are passionate about hockey, and through this landmark partnership with the NHL we’ll be able to bring hockey fans more games and more content on their platform of choice," he added.