NHL, ESPN, Walt Disney Company Agree to Groundbreaking Long-term Agreement
The NHL is coming back to ESPN.
Reports surfaced on Tuesday that the NHL and ESPN and the Walt Disney Company had reached an agreement on a new broadcasting rights deal that included national coverage on ESPN and ABC networks as well as streaming rights. The seven-year agreement was officially announced on Wednesday afternoon.
As part of the deal, ESPN and ABC will air the Stanley Cup Final in four of the next seven seasons, starting with the 2021-22 season. In each of the seven seasons of the agreement, ESPN and ABC will also air one Conference Final series and half of all First and Second Round games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
During the regular season, 25 games will air exclusively on ESPN or ABC. There will also be more plans for live game coverage, studio, surround, and original programming announced across all of the Walt Disney Company networks and streaming platforms, including a new weekly studio show during the season that will air on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
In addition to traditional live coverage on television, ESPN+ will stream more than 1,000 NHL games per season. There will also be 75 national games each season produced by ESPN that will be streamed exclusively on both ESPN+ and Hulu streaming platforms. ESPN+ will also be streaming more than 1,000 out-of-market NHL games available digitally only – essentially the replacement for the NHL’s NHL.TV package.
“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”
“This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company’s leadership in the sports media landscape and serves as a blueprint for sports deals in the future,” Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content said. “We know the power of the NHL and are thrilled to welcome it back as a significant new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sports world’s most passionate fans.”
“This is the kind of innovative deal that only The Walt Disney Company and our portfolio of media platforms and businesses can bring to life,” Kareem Daniel, Chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said. “The combination of streaming leadership with ESPN+ and Hulu, along with our powerhouse ABC and ESPN networks, will bring the NHL into the homes and lives of millions of passionate fans – and help create new ones. It’s a hat trick that delivers incredible value to our partner, our business and consumers.”
The deal also includes digital, highlight, and international rights.
The NHL’s broadcasting rights are expected to be split with another major networks, similar to the way the other major sports do with NFL, NBA and MLB coverage. The NHL could stick with NBC for this, though the folding of the NBC Sports national network presents some concerns. FOX Sports and CBS Sports could also enter the bidding, though ESPN and the Walt Disney Company will hold the larger portion of the rights deal.
The NHL first aired on ESPN on Dec. 19, 1979. They were the first national network to air the NHL All-Star Game in 1986. After a four-year absence, the NHL returned to the network in 1992 and aired on ESPN2 for the first time the following season. The network’s most recent TV rights deal expired in 2005, the same year that the NHL had a full-season lockout.
Now, if we can get Gary Throne back on the airwaves and this unmistakable theme back.