The merger of the former Comcast cable networks with NBCUniversal is working out well for the National Hockey League. The NHL and NBC Sports Group announced agreement on a 10-year television and media rights deal, taking the partnership through the 2020-21 season.
Under the expanded deal, NBC remains the exclusive broadcast network home and Versus the exclusive cable home of the NHL in the US. Versus is one of the cable nets that Cablevision contributed to NBCU when it acquired a majority stake in NBCU from General Electric. The price tag is widely reported to total $2 billion. That sounds like a big number, but stretched out over 10 years is not exceptional for a professional sports deal.
The new deal is highlighted by the first-ever national distribution of all Stanley Cup Playoffs contests, including, for the first time, exclusive coverage starting with the Conference Semifinals. The agreement also calls for the NBC Sports Group to televise 100 regular season games per year and introduces a national NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday.
Under the agreement, the NBC Sports Group obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises. In the regular season, NBC will continue to broadcast a national “Game of the Week,” along with its coverage of the NHL Winter Classic and “Hockey Day in America.” Versus also will telecast an exclusive national “Game of the Week,” as well as NHL Premiere Games, NHL Faceoff, the NHL All-Star Game and any future NHL Heritage Classic outdoor games in Canada. NBC and Versus remain the exclusive home of the Stanley Cup Final. The NBC Sports Group’s commitment includes building a new studio for NHL Network at its existing facility Stamford, CN.
“This is the most significant US media rights partnership in the League’s history,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “NBCUniversal/Comcast is one of the most important, connected and ‘wired’ media companies in the US, and as the potential of the NBC Sports Group is realized, the importance of our relationship will become more apparent to hockey fans and our business partners.”
“We have significantly increased the value of the NBC Sports Group with this unprecedented, 10-year agreement with the National Hockey League,” said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “What’s particularly exciting for us is not only the significant increase in regular season games, but the reality of a dream that every single playoff game will air on an NBC Sports Group platform. For the first time, the Conference Semifinal round will be exclusive on Versus with a 200% increase in games. In the regular season, we’re increasing Versus’ coverage from roughly 50 to 90 games.”
The agreement between the NHL and the NBC Sports Group includes targeted promotion across the combined Comcast/NBCUniversal company which, since the merger, consists of 20 television networks and more than 40 digital platforms.