NHL, Turner Sports finalize seven-year TV deal
"It’s more hockey in more places in more ways," Gary Bettman said on Tuesday, summing up a pair of rights deals that will carry the NHL through the next seven seasons, with a pair of new national TV partners.
The commissioner was on a video news conference with WarnerMedia & Sports chairman Jeff Zucker to make official the NHL’s contract with Turner Sports, completing a process that began last month with ESPN.
"For us, this is a perfect fit," Bettman said of the Turner deal, which marked the end of NBC’s 16-year run televising the league.
TNT will carry the Stanley Cup Final in 2023, ’25 and ’27, half of the playoffs every year on TNT and TBS and the NHL Winter Classic on TNT every year.
Turner will have exclusive rights to up to 72 regular-season games. The agreement includes live streaming rights, including on HBO Max.
ABC will carry the Cup Finals in 2022, ’24, ’26 and ’28.
Zucker said that initially, the focus will be putting games on TNT and TBS, with HBO Max streaming "not imminent."
"We want to be where the consumer is and where the consumer is skating to," Zucker said.
The total value of the seven-year contracts is about $625 million, according to Sports Business Journal, roughly double the NHL’s current national rights deals.
Bettman said the increase would hasten the league’s comeback from the revenue it lost because of COVID-19 restrictions.
An NBC spokesman said in a statement, "Our partnership with the NHL will end at the conclusion of the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, which we will present with the same excitement and professionalism that fans have come to expect since the 2005-06 season.
"We thank the league, its players, coaches and fans for their friendship, cooperation, and viewership, and we wish the league continued success. We also thank all of our colleagues at NBC Sports who through a passion for the game and their tireless efforts helped the league achieve unprecedented growth over the last 16 years."
Bettman said NBC has assured him it will not treat this year’s playoffs any differently than in the past.
"Despite a lot of speculation to the contrary, we part friends, and we look forward to the future," he said.
The new deal means the NBA and NHL have the same two national rights partners, which could make for interesting schedule-juggling in coming springs.
Zucker said Turner and ESPN already have experience working together on NBA scheduling, and he is confident that will ease an even more complicated process now.
Zucker said it has not been decided what night Turner will carry NHL games. He said the website Bleacher Report will play a key role in presenting highlights and finding younger sports fans.
"We’ve got a real firehose with Bleacher Report and ‘House of Highlights’ to reach younger viewers in a way that is actually pretty unique in the sports landscape," he said.
The ESPN and Turner deals would seem to put the future of the NHL Network in doubt, but Bettman said no decision has been made on that.
"We envision in some form continuing the NHL Network," he said. "We think it’s important for hockey fans. But the specifics of that isn’t anything we’ve addressed yet."
NBC has put part of the Cup Finals on NBCSN, but now in the years Turner carries the event, all games will be on cable TV.
Bettman and Zucker noted that is an increasingly common reality for events such as the NBA conference finals, MLB league championships, men’s basketball Final Four and College Football Playoff.