NHL and MLB partnership expected to raise a minimum of US$20m

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have agreed an unprecedented deal to jointly market coverage of both leagues. The agreement is expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars. It follows research conducted by the NHL which, the league claims, shows that 80 per cent of NHL fans also follow baseball. The initial contract will run until the end of 2009, but the deal is likely to be extended into 2010 and beyond.

NHL and MLB partnership expected to raise minimum of US$20mLength of contract: 1 year | Annualised value: US$21 million | Overall value: US$21m

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have agreed an unprecedented deal to jointly market coverage of both leagues.

The agreement is expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars. It follows research conducted by the NHL which, the league claims, shows that 80 per cent of NHL fans also follow baseball.

The deal will see out-of-market game subscriptions for both leagues distributed as an online video package, available to consumers for US$139.95.

A prominent industry pundit predicted a minimum of 150,000 subscribers. That would make the deal worth US$21 million to the two leagues.

"We see a lot of cross-currents here," said Bob Bowman, the chief executive of MLB's Advanced Media organisation.

"The timing to launch this now is really good, as our season is just beginning and theirs is beginning to hit a peak as well," Bowman said.

"We'll see what happens. We're excited, and we think this could be the start of something."

As well as the initial cash income, both leagues hope that fans will be made more aware of their respective individual online offerings, resulting in further increased subscriptions.

John Collins, the NHL's chief operating officer, was quick to praise Bowman for his part in the scheme.

"I give Bob a lot of credit for being innovative enough to reach out to us and ask us to explore the idea," he said.

"We think this partnership is a powerful one that will work well for fans."

One of Collins' first acts as chief operating officer was to ask Bowman for advice on digital rights and marketing. The close relationship the two have since built has been integral to the agreement.

The contract will run until the end of 2009, but Bowman expects it to be continued next year.

Each league will, in addition, continue to offer individual online video packages.

"It's a whole new product that we're exposing people to, and we expect to convert a lot of fans to a full-season package in the future," Collins said.

There is little overlap between the two leagues in terms of timing, with the current NHL season ending shortly after the beginning of the 2009 MLB season.