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Report: NHL to carve out live streaming package for next US rights cycle

ESPN+ and Peacock are favourites to land exclusive digital contract.

19 February 2021 Tom Bassam

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  • Adding a second network deal to broadcast mix is NHL’s best bet to secure ‘substantial’ fee bump
  • NHL ratings were up locally and nationally during start of 2020 season

The National Hockey League’s (NHL) next domestic broadcast deal will be split across two broadcasters, with one of those likely to receive an exclusive streaming package, according to the New York Post.

The NHL’s current deal with NBC pays around US$200 million a year, but that contract is expiring at the end of the 2021 season. According to the Post, for the NHL to receive a ‘substantial bump’ a new deal will have to carve out some exclusive live matches for one of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) subscription platforms.

The report says that Disney’s ESPN+ and NBC’s Peacock are the favourites for the streaming deal, but Fox and ViacomCBS could enter the bidding.

The NHL looks to be in a strong negotiating position as it prepares to enter broadcast rights talks. According to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), the first month of the 2020 NHL season has seen viewership on NBC’s broadcast and cable channels up eight per cent on last year’s comparable games.

The network’s 23 games on either NBC or NBC Sports Network have reportedly averaged 485,000 viewers. Last year’s average at the same point was 447,000 viewers.

Locally, according to SBJ, ratings collectively for 22 of the NHL’s 24 US-based teams were up 41 per cent up until 9th February, with 20 of those 22 teams showing audience increases this season.

Meanwhile, Bally's Corporation has a struck a deal with the NHL that will leverage the casino operator’s title sponsorship of Sinclair’s regional sports networks (RSNs). As a newly designated official NHL sports betting partner, Bally’s will create engaging content for the league’s fans which will be integrated into live broadcasts across the 19 Sinclair RSNs.

The multi-year partnership is Bally’s first betting partnership with a professional sports league, providing rights to use NHL marks and logos, as well as use of the league’s official data, across the gambling firm’s portfolio of sports consumer products.

The NHL's next US TV rights deal will be split across two broadcasters, with one of likely to be an exclusive streaming platform

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