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The National Hockey League (NHL) and the Walt Disney Company officially announced on Wednesday they reached a seven-year television, streaming and media rights deal, beginning with the 2021-22 season.
Included in the deal will be 25 regular-season games on ESPN or ABC, half of all First Round and Second Round games from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one Conference Final each year, the Stanley Cup Final series on ABC (with the ability to simulcast/megacast on ESPN+ and additional ESPN networks) in four of the next seven years and more than 1,000 games per season streaming on ESPN+.
ESPN+ (with its reported 12.1 million subscribers) and Hulu (subscriber base of 39.4 million) will be home to 75 ESPN-produced exclusive telecasts per season.
The deal also includes opening-night games, the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge and other special events.
The NHL’s out-of-market streaming package (NHL.TV) is also moving to ESPN+ as part of its subscription offerings.
The agreement also includes extensive highlight rights that will add to coverage across ESPN’s year-round news and highlights programming, and to coverage on the ESPN App and social media. International media rights – including in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe – are also part of the agreement.
ESPN+ features “In the Crease”, an exclusive original highlights show, hosted by ESPN’s Linda Cohn and Barry Melrose each NHL gameday throughout the season.
Disney is soon launching “ESPN+ on Hulu,” which will give Hulu subscribers with access to the service’s on-demand streaming library the choice to sign up for, and view, ESPN+ – including thousands of live events, and acclaimed original shows, series and documentaries – directly in the Hulu environment.
“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but was widely reported to be worth between $2.0-2.5 billion. Andrew Marchand of The New York Post relayed it was an approximate $2.8 billion agreement.
The NHL’s current 10-year, estimated $2 billion broadcast deal with NBC expires at the end of the 2020-21 season. NBC and Fox are currently in the running as suitors for the rest (a lesser but still significant portion) of the NHL package thru the 2027-28 season.
It will mark the first time ESPN and ABC will televise the NHL since 2004. The league was part of ESPN’s launch in 1979 and had been with the cable sports network thru 1988 and then again, from 1992 thru 2004.