- Disney (ABC/ESPN) is reportedly forking over $410 million a year for NHL broadcast rights, while Turner Sports will chip in an additional $225 million
- ESPN and TNT will split the playoffs’ first three rounds, with four of the next seven Stanley Cup Finals airing on ABC.
- More than 1,000 out-of-market games each regular season will stream on ESPN+ and Hulu
While there’s still plenty of hockey to play this season as we head into the Stanley Cup playoffs, next year the sport will have not one but two new homes in the United States after the NHL struck separate seven-year television rights deals with both ESPN and Turner Sports over the past two months.
The NHL will earn about $625 million a season off the combined deals, more than double its current $300 million annual U.S. national TV and streaming rights intake from NBC, the league’s partner for the past 15 years.
Better TV coverage is always welcome in the betting world as we’ll need to keep our fingers on the pulse of 32 different clubs after the Seattle Kraken officially joined the league last week. You can also rely on our NHL betting tips page for tips and advice on how to wager on hockey.
Hockey returns to ESPN
The NHL and ESPN announced a seven-year deal in early March, returning hockey to the network for the first time since 2004. That rights package included 25 regular-season games on ESPN or ABC, early-round playoff series and one conference final each year and four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC.
Additionally, the deal came with opening-night games, the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge and the league’s out-of-market streaming package, which will move from NHL.TV to ESPN+.
Connor McDavid lol pic.twitter.com/w5S3SOTz3E
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 2, 2021
After striking the seven-year $2.8 billion pact with Disney (which owns ABC and ESPN), many wondered if NBC would retain half of the package and pick up the other three Cups, however, news broke that week that Turner Sports was stepping up to the plate with their own seven-year deal worth at least $1.57 billion, or roughly $225 million per season.
NHL lands on Turner Sports
As part of the new agreement, Turner Sports networks (TNT and TBS) will televise all games in the Stanley Cup Final in 2023, 2025 and 2027, one conference final series each season, and half of the first two rounds of the playoffs, plus 72 regular-season games per season. Also included in the package are the NHL Winter Classic and the annual New Year’s Day outdoor games, as well as live streaming and digital rights across WarnerMedia properties HBO Max and Bleacher Report.
The deal was a big win for commissioner Gary Bettman and the league owners as Turner is quietly a sports right holder behemoth with coverage of the NCAA Tournament, MLB and NBA, including the 11-time Sports Emmy Award-winning show “Inside the NBA,” which features host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith.
Aaawwwwwww Sugar Crackers! Your Boy’s about to get into Hockey. Yes! HOCKEY!!! Check me out! pic.twitter.com/8Sr4ERzTjS
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 11, 2021
After years in the wilderness on networks like OLN, Versus and CNBC, the NHL now should have the exposure it needs to grow the sport of hockey in the United States.
Commissioner Bettman said the NHL salary cap, which is tied to revenues and expected to stay at $81.5 million for the foreseeable future, should increase sooner than expected after the two media rights agreements essentially doubled the league’s TV earnings.
Other good news for hockey fans: the NHL and its players will enjoy at least six more years of labor peace; NBC has confirmed that there will no difference in their Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage this summer despite losing the rights; and Bettman said that moving away from NBC — which holds U.S. broadcast rights for the Winter Games — will not play a role in deciding whether to allow players to participate in Beijing in 2022, so hockey could soon return to the Olympic stage.