The National Hockey League (NHL) has announced a wide-reaching six-year digital rights partnership with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the media arm of Major League Baseball (MLB).
MLBAM will exclusively distribute coverage of live out-of-market games in the US, and international markets other than Canada and Scandinavia, to cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcasters and via the NHL GameCenter LIVE and Center Ice subscription services. It will operate the NHL website and offical apps. The two parties will also collaborate on the development of new and improved digital products and platforms.
The deal is intended to create a new global online hub for the elite ice hockey league, integrating live streaming, social media, statistics and analytical content and fantasy games. The new services will launch fully in January 2016, with MLBAM working on a transition with existing NHL partner NeuLion until then.
According to reports in North America, unconfirmed by the NHL, the deal is worth US$200 million a year to the league. This includes a US$100 million rights fee, US$80 million in equity in MLBAM's technology business, and US$20 million in savings on investments it would otherwise need to make.
“As the market leader, MLBAM is uniquely qualified to assist us in giving hockey fans a richer, more immersive experience with the game," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "MLBAM is also the right partner because they have the expertise to help us deliver new and exciting products to our fans, who crave compelling digital content. We couldn't have North America better covered than with the power of NBC, Rogers, TVA and MLBAM – an incredible convergence of technical, creative and production talent that is great news for our fans."
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, added: "It is an honour for Major League Baseball to stand alongside the National Hockey League on this joint initiative. All of us in sports share a desire to distribute our games and tell our stories as widely and broadly as possible. Because of our own experiences in delivering baseball to its loyal fans, MLB Advanced Media is uniquely suited to excel in a partnership of this magnitude."
As well as operating MLB's digital offering, MLBAM provides streaming services to HBO, ESPN and World Wrestling Entertainment.