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NBC drops out of bidding for NHL TV rights package, report says

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire during an

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire during an Islanders-Penguins game on April 14, 2019. Credit: NBC Sports

The last time NBC was not a national TV partner for the NHL, the Islanders’ leading scorers were Trent Hunter and Oleg Kvasha, the Rangers’ coach for most of the season was Glen Sather, and Alexis Lafreniere was 2 years old.

That was in 2003-04. But so it will be again when this season ends, after NBC dropped out of the bidding for part of the league’s new seven-year television package, Sports Business Journal reported on Monday.

SBJ also reported Turner Sports will land the portion of the TV deal NBC had been among the candidates for, including the Stanley Cup Finals in 2023, ’25 and ’27, at up to $225 million per year. An official announcement is expected this week.

Fox widely had been expected to be a possibility, too.

ESPN last month secured the more extensive piece of the NHL’s new rights package, a deal that will place four Finals on ABC from 2022 through 2028 and put many games on the ESPN+ streaming service.

That left the other three Finals over those seven years to a second media outlet.

NBC is phasing out NBCSN, its sports cable arm and the primary home for its hockey coverage, at the end of this year and likely would have shifted many of its games to its own streaming service, Peacock, in any new deal.

NBC declined to comment on the matter. It has carried the NHL since 2005-06 – after a lockout erased the entire 2004-05 season – and was paying about $200 million a season under its current 10-year contract.

Hockey for decades had been a national TV afterthought compared to football, basketball and baseball when NBC began carrying it, and in the decade-and-a-half since the network has helped the sport grow and innovate.

That includes creating the New Year’s Day "Winter Classic," the widely copied "Inside the Glass" analyst position, coverage of every playoff game and significant ratings growth.

Mike "Doc" Emrick, who retired before this season, was the network’s lead play-by-play man and is on a streak of seven consecutive Sports Emmys.

NBC has not said who it will use to call the Cup Final, although Kenny Albert long has called whichever conference final Emrick does not.

ESPN has not yet made any announcements about its plans for hockey announcers. If Turner signs on to the hockey deal, the NBA and NHL will share the same two national TV partners.

New York Sports