The NHL and long-time TV partner NBC will see their current broadcast rights deal end at the end of the season. Thus, the league’s broadcast rights will be (were?) available to the highest bidder, and it seems like there may be a deal in place.
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the NHL and ESPN have a seven-year deal in place to be a U.S.-broadcast partner.
The unconfirmed deal between ESPN and the NHL would have the “Worldwide Leader” broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals and would give streaming rights to Disney.
We talked about a potential partnership between the NHL, NBC, and ESPN earlier this week, where it was reported that the league would prefer multiple rights partners for their next broadcast deal. The more eyes on the game, the better for the league. Moving the broadcast rights to a larger audience and network in ESPN can be good for league, so long as the network takes the league seriously and gives it even just a fraction of what it provides to the NBA and NFL (Michael: Has the NHL considered signing LeBron James or Tom Brady?)
ESPN was a broadcast partner for the NHL sporadically in the 1980’s but became big players in the broadcast world from 1992-2004. After the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, NBC/OLN became the home for the NHL beginning with the 2005-06 season. All things considered, this is good news for the health of the sport.