FOX, Turner Enter the NHL Rights Fray
March 3, 2011 14 Comments
From John Ourand and Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal:
Fox and Turner are taking an early look at the NHL’s cable TV package, raising the likelihood that the league will have a competitive bidding process — with as many as four networks — as it negotiates new TV deals this year.
Versus’ exclusive negotiating window ended in late January, leading the league to send out feelers to several networks to gauge interest in the NHL’s TV rights. The league reached out to ESPN, which held the NHL’s TV rights from 1992 to 2004, and is still engaged in talks with Versus, its current rights holder.
But the league’s outreach to Fox and Turner shows that it wants to build an auction process that will push the TV rights package well above the $77.5 million annual payout it gets from Versus.
Sources at those two programming groups said that while things still are in the exploratory stage, they are interested in examining the rights package further.
Fox has been looking to add sports to its FX cable channel, and many of its regional sports networks have deals with NHL teams. Turner could be interested in bringing more sports to its TruTV cable channel. In March, TruTV will begin telecasting some NCAA Tournament games.
While they’ve been happy with the production quality, some NHL executives have been frustrated with the overall visibility of Versus, which still is not available in many bars and restaurants. It also has the lowest distribution of the potential networks. ESPN2 is in 99 million homes, FX is in 96 million homes, TruTV is in 92 million homes and Versus is in 76 million homes.