NHL Nets Agreements With ESPN, NBC

NEW YORK As the NHL Stanley Cup Finals approach, the league has signed two TV deals for the 2004-05 season and beyond, which could be affected by low ratings this season and the possibility of a work stoppage as owners and the NHL Players’ Association feud over salary cap and other issues.

The NHL renewed its deal with Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN, which will move all regular-season coverage to ESPN2. ESPN will pay $60 million for next season and have an option for the following two seasons at $70 million per year. Under the NHL’s expiring TV deal, Disney-owned ESPN and ABC paid an average total of $120 million per year since 1998. ESPN2 plans to show 40 games, down from 70 on ESPN this season, including Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Separately, NBC will broadcast a package of Saturday regular-season and playoff games without paying the league any fee for the rights. Instead, the league will receive a share of NBC’s profits from advertising after NBC covers its production costs. NBC will carry seven regular-season and six playoff games, plus Games 3 through 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

—Brandweek staff report