An Inside Look at the NHL TV Deal
April 27, 2011 2 Comments
From John Ourand, a must read at Sports Business Journal:
Comcast’s Brian Roberts was talking with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman nearly two weeks ago. The two high-ranking executives had known each other a long time. Bettman has been the NHL’s commissioner for 18 years, and Roberts’ Comcast has owned the league’s Flyers franchise for 15 years through Comcast-Spectacor.
Though the two are friends, Bettman had a tough message to deliver: Days earlier, ESPN told the league that it would make an aggressive bid on the NHL’s media package. Bettman told Roberts that ESPN’s planned bid of $160 million to $170 million per year would test NBC’s and Versus’ right-to-match clause, which several media executives described as the tightest such clause they had ever seen. The clause gave NBC the right to match any deal the NHL signed with another network.
But it would be hard for NBC to match ESPN’s planned offer. ESPN told the NHL that it would televise every Stanley Cup playoff game nationally. ESPN said that it would stream the games to authenticated broadband and mobile users. And ESPN guaranteed an international component as part of its planned offer. ESPN’s deal would include a regular-season Game of the Week, but it was not making the broadcast network ABC available. The details were new for Roberts, who did not want to lose the NHL. In early discussions with the league, the NBC Sports Group had resisted the idea of televising every Stanley Cup playoff game nationally. And Comcast could not match ESPN’s streaming plans or international offerings.
It was clear to Roberts that ESPN’s plan was expansive enough that NBC would have trouble matching. He assured Bettman that his company would come up with a plan.