MLB Inks $600 Million Pact with NHL to Handle TV, Streaming Distribution

Major League Baseball’s media division has announced a six-year deal with the NHL, under which MLB Advanced Media will take over the hockey league’s TV broadcasting and Internet-streaming operations.

Under the terms of the pact, MLBAM will pay the NHL about $100 million per year for the rights to distribute the league’s out-of-market telecasts, including the NHL GameCenter Live and NHL Center Ice subscriptions services, in the U.S. and certain international markets. The NHL will receive an equity stake in MLBAM of between 7% and 10%.

MLBAM, in addition to operating the MLB.tv subscription streaming service for out-of-market baseball games, also powers the streaming infrastructure of HBO Now, WWE Network, Sony’s PlayStation Vue Internet TV service and the PGA. It has also provided services for CBS’ March Madness on Demand service and ESPN’s WatchESPN.

Previously, NHL had used NeuLion to power its Internet-video subscription services. Under the pact, MLBAM has exclusive rights to operate the NHL Network, whose daily on-air operations will be based out of MLB Network’s headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.

MLBAM said it expects to relaunch the NHL’s online properties in January 2016 as a “fully integrated global hub of digital content” that will encompass video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, and statistical and analytical content. MLBAM will operate NHL.com, including the league’s seven in-language sites, and the websites for the NHL’s 30 teams, although the NHL and its member clubs retain editorial control across all platforms.

Major League Baseball had a years-long head start in the video-streaming business, launching MBL.tv for the 2002-03 season — eons ago in Internet time, and five years before Netflix launched its initial streaming-video service. The league is expected to spin off MLB Advanced Media, headed by Bob Bowman, into a separate entity at some point.

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