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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

ESPN may start covering hockey again after reported NHL TV rights deal

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ESPN may start covering hockey once again now that they reportedly have a TV rights deal with the NHL.

SportsNet’s Chris Johnston reported on Tuesday that ESPN has reached a 7-year deal with the NHL to become a media partner with the league. The deal would begin next season, which is after the current deal with NBC ends.

ESPN would split the package of NHL games with another partner, according to the report.

ESPN reportedly would receive the rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022-2028 plus receive streaming rights.

NBC has held the TV rights to the NHL in the U.S. since the league’s lockout in 2004-2005. They pay $200 million annually for the package. However, NBC announced they would be shutting down NBC Sports Network at the end of the year, which signified they were unlikely to keep the full NHL deal. Sports properties that were airing on NBC Sports Network will shift to USA Network, which is another NBC property.

This move is a positive one for the NHL, which has received decreased exposure in the U.S. since losing the ESPN deal. From 1992-2004, ESPN held “National Hockey Night” games that helped the league increase in popularity. Their focus on the sport dwindled once they no longer held TV rights.

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