NHL, ESPN Ink Seven-Year Rights Deal, Covering Four Stanley Cup Finals and Half of Playoff Package
Also included are 25 regular-season games exclusively on ABC/ESPN, 75 on ESPN+/Hulu
For the first time in more than a decade and a half, the NHL is heading to ESPN. The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, and the league have inked a seven-year television, streaming, and media-rights deal that begins next season and runs through the 2027-28 season. Under terms of the deal, ABC will air exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final in four of the seven years of the agreement, with the ability to simulcast/MegaCast on ESPN+ and additional ESPN networks. In addition, half the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be carried by ABC and ESPN each season.
According to the NY Post‘s Andrew Marchand, the deal is worth $2.8 billion over seven years ($400 million per year) and will be the NHL’s A package, with a second to-be-determined rightsholder receiving the B package.
The agreement also covers 25 exclusive national regular-season games on ABC or ESPN and 75 national regular-season games per season produced by ESPN and streamed exclusively on both ESPN+ and Hulu. ESPN will also provide coverage annually of NHL’s Face-off (opening-night games), the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge, and other NHL special events each season.
Additionally, the NHL’s out-of-market streaming package, with more than 1,000 games (formerly on NHL.TV), will be available to stream only as part of an ESPN+ subscription.
The agreement also includes extensive highlight rights, adding to coverage across ESPN’s year-round news and highlights programming and to coverage on the ESPN App and social media. International media rights — including in Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe — are also part of the agreement.
“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” says NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach, and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN. It sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”
Stanley Cup Final, Playoffs, Regular Season Return to ABC, ESPN
Under the new agreement, the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final and Stanley Cup Playoffs action will once again air on the ABC and ESPN networks — including exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final in four of the seven years of the deal — beginning with the 2021-22 season.
Additionally, in each season of the agreement, ESPN and ABC will have live, exclusive coverage of one Conference Final series and half of all First Round and Second Round games from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company’s leadership in the sports-media landscape and serves as a blueprint for sports deals in the future,” says Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, The Walt Disney Co. “We know the power of the NHL and are thrilled to welcome it back as a significant new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sports world’s most passionate fans.”
Throughout the regular season, 25 games from the NHL schedule will be carried live, exclusively on ABC or ESPN.
Live game coverage and studio, surround, and original-programming plans across all Disney networks and streaming platforms will be announced in the coming months, along with a new weekly studio show during the NHL season on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2.
NHL Streaming on ESPN+ and Hulu
Beginning with the start of the 2021-22 season in October, ESPN+ will live-stream more than 1,000 NHL games per season, including 75 national games per season produced by ESPN and streamed exclusively on both ESPN+ and Hulu, a first. Additionally, more than 1,000 out-of-market games will be available digitally only on ESPN+. The platform will also feature In the Crease, an exclusive original highlights show hosted by ESPN’s Linda Cohn and Barry Melrose each NHL game day throughout the season.
“This is the kind of innovative deal that only The Walt Disney Company and our portfolio of media platforms and businesses can bring to life,” says Kareem Daniel, chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, The Walt Disney Company. “The combination of streaming leadership with ESPN+ and Hulu, along with our powerhouse ABC and ESPN networks, will bring the NHL into the homes and lives of millions of passionate fans — and help create new ones. It’s a hat trick that delivers incredible value to our partner, our business, and consumers.”
The deal also marks the first major sports agreement to include exclusive, live sports rights on Hulu, with the 75 games available to ESPN+ subscribers available to Hulu SVOD subscribers at no added cost as part of their subscription.
The agreement also comes as Disney is launching “ESPN+ on Hulu,” which will give Hulu subscribers accessing the service’s on-demand streaming library the choice to sign up for and view ESPN+ — including thousands of live events and acclaimed original shows, series. and documentaries — directly in the Hulu environment.
Building on ESPN’s NHL Legacy
The NHL first appeared on ESPN on Dec. 19, 1979, only about three months after the network went on-air. ESPN recorded milestones both on and off the ice in the first nine seasons and, in 1986, became the first U.S. network to produce an NHL All-Star Game. After a four-year absence, the league returned to the network in 1992 and aired for the first time on ESPN2 the following season, just days after that channel’s debut. In the years that followed, the NHL played a key role in the expansion of ESPN2, leading to ESPN and ESPN2’s celebrating their 1,000th NHL telecast on March 8, 1998. Over the years, ESPN introduced its innovative production elements to hockey coverage, including electronic cut-ins (1980), MaskCam (1998), SkyCam (1998) and more. The network’s most recent TV-rights deal with the league concluded in 2005.
Live daily out-of-market game coverage and the In the Crease daily studio show have been carried on ESPN+ since 2018. Additionally, Disney (and BAMTech, prior to its acquisition by Disney) has been a technology and streaming partner for the NHL since 2015.