Reunited, and it feels good. The National Hockey League will return to ESPN in the fall after 16 years, as the league and cable company agreed to a new seven-year television deal. This is the NHL’s last stint on world leader Disney, which has aired games several times throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, but not since 2004.
The news comes as the league’s 10-year pact with NBC Sports expires at the end of the current season shortened by Covid in late spring or early summer.
The new deal begins in the 2021-22 season and includes matches on ABC, ESPN, ESPN + and Hulu. Starting in October – when the league hopes to resume its regular virus-free schedule – 25 regular-season games will air on ESPN or ABC, along with early-season playoffs and a conference final each year. There will be four Stanley Cup Finals series on ABC and over 1,000 games per season streamed on ESPN +.
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The deal includes the opening night games, the NHL all-star game and the skills challenge and other special events. The NHL’s off-market streaming package (NHL.TV) is also switching to ESPN + as part of its subscription offerings. ESPN + and Hulu will host 75 exclusive shows produced by ESPN per season.
The pact, which spans the 2027-28 season, also covers international rights in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe.
“This groundbreaking seven-year agreement will not only allow the NHL to benefit from the unparalleled power, reach and influence of the Walt Disney Company and ABC / ESPN, but it sets a new standard in providing our game to the most passionate and technological. fans savvy in the sport as they demand it now and on the platforms they use, ”longtime NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
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Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN and Sports Content for Disney, said, “This deal clearly underscores Walt Disney Company’s leadership in the sports media landscape and serves as a model for sports deals going forward. We know the power of the NHL and are delighted to welcome it again as an important new pillar on our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sport’s most passionate fans. .
The announcement of the new deal took a start-stop approach, with an official press release issued Tuesday night but once withdrawn. Confirmation came on Wednesday afternoon.
The new deal is a huge victory for the NHL, which has often struggled to shake its “regional sport” label, even as it has spread to many non-traditional hockey markets in recent decades. The league has also had to deal with the stigma of fighting old-school hockey, but the league – and the sport – has evolved in recent years, as today’s young players have grown up focusing more on speed. and skills as on brawls and checks. . This created a faster, more streamlined game that will likely play better on TV in the future.
ESPN’s marketing machine in particular is also likely to help the NHL with its long-standing problem of promoting its big-name stars in the U.S. See what the world leader is doing with the NBA, MLB and even football. With no dearth of young American superstars in their prime – think Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Brock Boeser – and many more just thriving or a stone’s throw from The Show, the NHL seems ready for its American close-up. .
And that’s not to mention young Canadian or European players with criminal talents such as Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Leon Draisaitl – who all put the crowds on their feet even in opposing arenas.