Take a look around the sports sites and blogosphere and you will read that the NHL has made a choice regarding their next television deal.
NBC and Comcast won out in a bidding war that included CBS, ESPN and others. NBC is reported to have bought ten years worth of broadcast rights for $200 million. EDIT: The deal is $2 billion for the next ten years. That equates to $200 million per season.
It is tough to evaluate the benefits of this deal for the NHL. Obviously the advent of the Winter Classic and the numerous blossoming superstars has made this a much more marketable sport. Just think, the NHL was clamoring for anyone to televise the sport in 2005, now it is a very hot ticket.
One bonus here is that CBS and Turner dropped out of the battle. If an NBA situation was created where the league was televised on just shot every cable network, it would be bad for business. I feel the NBA has become just like Law and Order, you can always find it on TV but it is never an episode that you want to watch. The NHL won’t have to worry about that as NBC and ESPN became the two major players in the bidding, with NBC winning out.
What I am apprehensive about is the fact that the NHL will remain off the airwaves on ESPN. I don’t think it is completely necessary due, in part, to the fact that ESPN treats the NHL like a sideshow. Hell, the network decided to put poker on over hockey. That plan seems to have backfired as poker has certainly lost the luster it had three years ago.
The fact of the matter is that most American sports fans will go to ESPN before another network. If the NHL was in front of these people it would certainly gain a bit more notoriety, and casual fans.
The best situation would be to get the NHL on both networks. The NBC Sunday games plus Monday and Tuesday broadcasts on Versus would pair well with ESPN later in the week. You could create a Super Bowl situation where the Stanley Cup Final could rotate between NBC and ABC while they split the national broadcasts. I’m not sure of he legal parameters of this deal, so I’m not sure if the NHL could even add an additional network to the fray. It would be a great way to go about expanding the league’s footprint while adding revenue to a league that continues to blow up after reappearing from the darkness of a lockout.