NBC, NHL renew partnership

Deal extends agreement through the 2010-11 season

Coming off a year of record NHL viewership, NBC has made a deal to continue airing pro hockey games through the 2010-11 season.

The National Hockey League and NBC Sports have agreed to extend their partnership, under which the network doesn't pay an upfront rights fee and instead splits advertising revenue with the league.

June's Stanley Cup Final included television's most-watched regular season hockey game in 36 years, when the deciding Game 7 drew 8 million viewers.

"We strongly believe this is a league that is poised for continued growth," said Ken Schanzer, president, NBC Sports. "Together, we have attained viewership milestones not seen in more than three decades. And the Winter Classic, in just two years, has become one of the highlights of the sports calendar."

With a partnership that began with the 2006 season, NBC Sports' coverage has introduced innovations to help grow the hockey's TV viewership, which has traditionally been lackluster in the United States compared with other pro sports. An "Inside the Glass" analyst position where a reporter is stationed between the teams' benches has been lauded as a breakthrough in covering the sport. NBC Sports received a 2009 Sports Emmy Award for its coverage.

The network's 2010 NHL coverage begins on New Year's Day with the third annual NHL Winter Classic.