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The National Hockey League has completed its next TV rights package — and for the first time in 16 years, NBC Sports won’t be a part of it.
As first reported by Sports Business Journal, NBC pulled out of negotiations for the partial rights for the league’s next TV deal. WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports will pick up the remainder of the package, sharing rights with ESPN for seven seasons beginning with the 2021-22 campaign.
“This agreement with the National Hockey League brings one of the most prestigious championships in sports to TNT and fuels our entire Turner Sports and Bleacher Report portfolio with even more premium content for many years to come,” said Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports. “We’re delighted to spotlight the world’s best hockey league on our leading networks, while continuing to further elevate this marquee property through an ever-expanding array of digital platforms in the years to come.”
ESPN and Turner also share rights to the NBA — but unlike that deal, where ABC is the exclusive home of the league championship, TNT will air three of the seven Stanley Cup Finals series during the term of the deal. Turner Sports will also have half of the Stanley Cup playoffs each season along with a regular season slate of up to 72 games, including the annual Winter Classic.
The deal also includes live streaming and simulcast rights for WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max, marking its first entry into live sports. The WarnerMedia-owned Bleacher Report will also be part of the deal, supplying digital content and ancillary programming.
“Turner Sports is known for its outstanding sports coverage, quality and innovation and we are thrilled that this new partnership will provide our fans with the content they love on the platforms and devices of their choice,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “TNT is a proven and acclaimed destination for sports fans and we will also benefit from the deep connection Bleacher Report has with young digital-savvy fans. Having WarnerMedia join the NHL family as co-rights holders for the next seven years gives us incredible reach, positions us well for the future as the media landscape continues to evolve, and will fuel continued growth for the NHL and our clubs.”
Turner’s portion of the deal will cost it about $225 yearly, a little more than half of what ESPN is paying ($400 million annually). The total package more than doubles the annual value of the NHL’s current deal, which runs about $300 million between NBC Sports and Disney Streaming Services (which operates NHL.tv).
The rise in rights fees is in keeping with other recent rights deals, including the blockbuster $100 billion, 11-year deal for NFL rights and a nearly $9 billion, seven-year package for Major League Baseball shared by Turner and Fox (ESPN is still negotiating MLB rights but is expected to pay less than it currently does for a smaller set of games). Sources say the NBA is also likely to seek big increases in its next rights contract, which will begin with the 2025-26 season.
April 27, 8:15 a.m. Updated with further details on the deal.
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