The National Hockey League is skating from NBC Sports over to Turner Sports next season for the first time.
In this landmark seven-season deal deal, TNT and TBS will air half of the league’s yearly postseason games as part of a split with ESPN, the NHL’s other new media rights partner, and broadcast three of the seven Stanley Cup Final series throughout the duration of the deal.
“This agreement with the National Hockey League brings one of the most prestigious championships in sports to TNT and fuels our entire Turner Sports and Bleacher Report portfolio with even more premium content for many years to come,” said WarnerMedia News & Sports Chairman (and CNN Worldwide president) Jeff Zucker via statement. “We’re delighted to spotlight the world’s best hockey league on our leading networks, while continuing to further elevate this marquee property through an ever-expanding array of digital platforms in the years to come.”
In addition to broadcast rights, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max is getting streaming and simulcast rights to the NHL.
When we asked Turner Sports evp Craig Barry back in March about the potential for sports to end up HBO Max at any point, his response: “Those conversations are being had. I defer back to again to the strategic development group and the programming group, who are working through those various opportunities. I think that when they’re ready—and it feels right for the business—those discussions will start to accelerate.”
Barry later added: “All I would say is I think it’s fair to say that we look at everything.”
And yes, NHL game highlights and everything digital is heading to Bleacher Report.
According to the Athletic, the NHL will earn around $225 million annually from the deal with Turner Sports, a total value of more than $1.57 billion over its lifespan.
Turner Sports skews younger than the TV sports competition (their primary properties are the NBA, European soccer, March Madness, and pro wrestling), and the NHL tends to have a younger fanbase. Seems like a reasonable match.
What does this mean from a scheduling standpoint? The NBA on TNT airs Thursdays in prime time. TBS will have Major League Baseball games airing Tuesdays in prime time. It remains to be seen which night of the week TNT will devote to the NHL. Pitting its new property against ESPN Monday Night Football doesn’t seem like a great idea, so Wednesday seems like the most logical move.
NBC has been the lone network rightsholder for the NHL since 2005-06. Its 10-year agreement with the League expires after this season. With NBCSN shutting down, keeping the league seems to make increasingly less sense. It was announced in March that ESPN would become the primary network partner for the league, beginning next season, and now Turner Sports is the secondary partner in a move few media observers saw coming.