NHL Could Start Bidding War in Next Rights Deal
October 4, 2010 2 Comments
By Tripp Mickle and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal (sub. req.):
Early signs suggest that a bidding war is developing. The league is
expected to enter an exclusive negotiating period with Versus later
this year, and Versus has made no secret of its desire to renew with
the NHL, which consistently brings the highest ratings to the
Comcast-owned sports channel. NBC also has said that it would like to
keep its rights package.
But others are lurking. ESPN said it wants to be involved. And sources
said Fox Sports is considering whether to bid on a package.
The ACC’s most recent media deal showed how multiple bidders can drive
up rights fees. Sources said that ESPN increased its bid by $35
million per year once Fox Sports showed interest in the conference’s
rights earlier this spring.
NHL executives have worked quietly behind the scenes to fuel that kind
of interest. During the Vancouver Olympics in February, for example,
NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins was spotted at a high-top
table before the first U.S.-Canada hockey game chatting with ESPN
President George Bodenheimer. Four months later, Collins took in Game
6 of the Stanley Cup Final with NBC Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick
Ebersol. He’s had informal contact with top executives at almost every
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and
Collins will lead negotiations, which are set to formally begin when
Versus exercises an option to open an exclusive negotiation window.
From there, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen.