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Confirmed: Remaining NHL rights snapped up by Turner for “US$225m” a year

Seven-season deal ends ice hockey league's 16-year NBC relationship.

27 April 2021 Sam Carp
  • League will reportedly bring in around US$625m a season during next seven-year cycle from deals with Turner and ESPN
  • Turner package includes three Stanley Cup finals, half of the playoffs and 72 regular season fixtures each year
  • Agreement also provides live streaming and simulcast rights for HBO Max, as well as digital and highlight rights for Bleacher Report
  • SBJ reports that NBC pulled out of race after league rejected bid worth less than US$100m a year

Turner Sports has secured the National Hockey League’s (NHL) second US media rights package in a seven-year deal starting from the 2021/22 season. 

The deal is worth US$225 million a year, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), and means that NBC will no longer broadcast North America’s premier ice hockey league when its existing ten-year, US$2 billion contract expires at the end of this season.

Turner’s rights package will see its cable television channels exclusively broadcast three of the seven Stanley Cup finals taking place over the duration of the contract, as well as half of the Stanley Cup playoffs each year and 72 regular season fixtures annually. The agreement also covers the NHL Winter Classic and other events. 

In addition, the deal includes live streaming and simulcast rights for HBO Max, WarnerMedia's subscription streaming service, as well as expansive digital and highlight rights for Bleacher Report.

The NHL, Turner Sports and Bleacher Report will also create ancillary programming, events and bespoke digital experiences as part of the partnership.

“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.”

The deal comes just over a month after the NHL and the Walt Disney Company announced a seven-year deal for the league’s main broadcast package worth a reported US$400 million a season.

Based on the reported figures, that deal is worth considerably more than the Turner agreement, but in addition to linear rights for ESPN and ABC also includes extensive coverage across the ESPN+ and Hulu streaming platforms, as well as the NHL's out-of-market package.

“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,” added NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “Having WarnerMedia join the NHL family as co-rightsholders 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.”

According to SBJ, the NHL’s media rights agreements for the next seven-year cycle will see the league bring in US$625 million a season, which is more than double what it received from NBC and Disney Streaming Services under the previous arrangements.

Turner’s successful bid comes as somewhat of a surprise. Both ESPN and Fox were linked with rivalling NBC for the NHL’s rights, but the Warner Media-owned network was rarely mentioned in reports about the league’s next broadcast deal.

SBJ's report added that NBC pulled out of the race for the NHL’s second broadcast package after the league turned down an offer worth less than US$100 million a year that would have seen most games aired on the Comcast-owned media giant’s Peacock streaming service.

The new deal with Turner means that next season will be the first time since the 2005/06 campaign that NBC has not broadcast NHL games, bringing to an end a 16-year relationship between the broadcaster and the league.

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