NBC has an important legacy with the NHL.
When the league missed the entire 2004-05 season due to a work stoppage and the NHL’s overall value and marketability crashed to an all-time low, NBC had just returned as a national television partner. In 2008, the NHL introduced an NBC brainchild, the Winter Classic, a Jan. 1 fixture that put the sport on the map on a day normally dominated by college football. The outdoor spectacles have become the league’s most successful and most-viewed regular-season games.
But now NBC is out of the picture. Turner Sports officially secured the second part of the NHL’s national TV deal in the United States on Monday, paying $1.57 billion for a seven-year deal, an average annual value of $225 million. ESPN has the A package, confirmed in March in a deal worth $2.8 billion.
Five team executives, who asked to remain anonymous so they could speak more freely, said Tuesday that the move away from NBC would be good for the NHL.
“It was time to move forward with forward-thinking TV partners,” one NHL executive said.
Multiple executives said there was optimism that the new deals would lead to a boost in creativity in promoting the game to a wider audience. One source noted that more could be done to sell the sport by better highlighting player personalities, especially during pre-game coverage.