There is a lot to unpack here, but Disney and the NHL have officially announced their new, seven-year deal for NHL television broadcasting. It’s a doozy.
It is highlighted by: exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final on ABC in four of the seven years of the agreement, with the ability to simulcast/megacast on ESPN+ and additional ESPN networks; the return of live NHL action to ESPN networks with 25 exclusive national regular-season games on ABC or ESPN; 75 national regular-season games per season produced by ESPN that will stream exclusively on both ESPN+ and Hulu; half of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on ABC and ESPN each season; and coverage annually of NHL’s Face-off (opening night games), the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge, plus other NHL special events each season.
Additionally, the NHL’s out-of-market streaming package, with more than 1,000 games (formerly on NHL.TV), will now be available for fans to stream only as part of an ESPN+ subscription.
If you’re trying to figure out what all of this means for you, it actually might mean saving some money. NHL.TV is a $144.99 investment if you want the full league package for the complete season, or $24.99 a month. The Disney Bundle, which includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu (with ads) is $12.99 a month, or $155 a year. I know that right now, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is another streaming service, but many streamers at least already have either ESPN+ or Hulu as a stand alone service. The death of NHL.tv (whose interface has finally been consistently successful at streaming games after years of making me want to throw my phone or whatever device I’m streaming on) and the shift to ESPN+ also means the death of NBCSports’ app, which was also buggy and required a cable subscription. ESPN+ doesn’t require one of those.
ESPN or ABC will only air about 25 NHL games live, so a bulk of the national broadcast games that are part of their contract will be airing on the streaming service.
Remember the 1990s? When you hear this music, is the first thing that pops into your head a SNES or Sega Genesis Game?
Have you ever watched a Quebec Nordiques game live?
Have I got a treat for you, then. With NBC Sports shuttering and the ten year, $200 million contract that the NHL signed with NBC in 2011 ending at the end of this season, hockey has to find a new home. Overall, NBC has done a solid job partnering with the NHL on major events and prime broadcast network spots, though having late games of the Stanley Cup Final airing on cable has always been an odd decision.
That they employed Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury for so long is helped by the fact that they finally canned both of them, replacing them with Patrick Sharp and a cadre of other young talent. Hiring Mike Babcock for in-studio analysis, well, at least that’s done soon.
ESPN is not known for its current hockey coverage past having Barry Melrose and John Buccigross on TV and Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski heading the website coverage. Their past commentary teams on National Hockey Night, which aired between 1992 and 2004, have been mostly solid. Obviously we all love Bill Clement and Gary Thorne. They’ve also employed current Blues color broadcaster Darren Pang, Doc Emerick, John Davidson, Dave Strader, Brian Engblom (eh), Joe Micheletti, Joe Beninati, Eddie Olczyk, Ray Ferraro, and, uh, Jack Edwards.
That’s a pretty good history with the sport for a network who immediately exhibited generational level of disinterest the second that they no longer held the TV rights.
ESPN and ABC have a chance to learn the lingo again, because the NHL has reportedly signed a deal with Disney to broadcast at least a portion of the NHL’s games, and playoff games, next season. According to SportsNet, the league and ESPN have reached a seven year broadcast deal worth north of $200 million. They’ll have broadcast rights for four Stanley Cup Finals over the next seven years along with streaming rights for ESPN+.
Word hasn’t gotten out if they’ll be airing on ABC or not as well. Here’s hoping this opening sequence stays far in the past:
ESPN’s theme music? Welcome back.