Hockey will return in a big way to Walt Disney’s ESPN in a new seven-year deal that breaks NBCUniversal’s dominance of the sport’s TV rights and makes some National Hockey League games available for streaming in broader fashion.
ESPN’s new deal with the NHL will last from the 2021-2022 season through the 2027-2028 season, the network announced Wednesday. Under terms of the pact, Disney’s ABC broadcast network will get to present exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final n four of the seven years of the agreement, with the ability to simulcast it on streaming-video outlet ESPN+ and additional ESPN networks. ABC or ESPN will also present 25 national regular-season games exclusively.
ESPN will get to stream 75 national regular-season games on ESPN+ and Hulu .Additionally, more than 1,000 games previously streamed by the NHL on its own outlet will now be available for fans to stream only as part of an ESPN+ subscription. The pact also includes rights to broadcast several special league events, and Disney said international media rights in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe were also part of the agreement.
The pact “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,” said Gary Bettman, the NHL’s Commissioner, in a prepared statement.
NBCU, controlled by Comcast, is in the midst of a ten-year deal with the NHL that will expire at the end of the current season. NBC recently announced it would shut down its NBCSN sports cable-network, a move that will have it pushing some parts of its sports portfolio to the USA general-entertainment cable network or its Peacock streaming-video hub. NBC Sports could not be reached for immediate comment about any new plans for NHL rights.
Disney unveiled the agreement as many of the nation’s big media companies are in the midst of negotiating for rights to NFL games, a prized property none can afford to miss. Prices for those broadcasts are expected to skyrocket and the looming price tag has forced Fox, Comcast, Disney and ViacomCBS to give new consideration to their current sports rights portfolio.