The deal is by far the largest TV deal ever signed by the league, with the collective rights fee of about US$200 million per year topping the $120 million reportedly paid by ESPN from 1999 to 2004. Versus currently pays about $75 million per year while NBC has a revenue-sharing arrangement with the NHL.
NBC will remain the exclusive US network home of the NHL while Versus will retain the exclusive cable rights within the country. The agreement will ensure the first ever national distribution of all Stanley Cup Play-off games including, for the first time, coverage starting with the conference semi-finals. The contract also guarantees 100 regular-season games per year on NBC.
During the regular season, NBC will continue to broadcast a national ‘Game of the Week’ along with its coverage of the NHL Winter Classic and ‘Hockey Day in America’. Versus will air an exclusive national ‘Game of the Week’, plus NHL Premiere Games, NHL Faceoff, the NHL All-Star Game and any future NHL Heritage Classic outdoor games in Canada.
“This is the most significant US media rights partnership in the League’s history,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “NBC Universal/Comcast is one of the most important, connected and ‘wired’ media companies in the US, and as the potential of the NBC Sports Group is realised, the importance of our relationship will become more apparent to hockey fans and our business partners.”
Bettman added: “NBC Sports and Comcast have been fantastic partners. They have provided incredible coverage of our sport and have teamed with us to deliver the best TV viewership figures in three decades.” ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner Broadcasting had also expressed an interest in the NHL rights tender.