Aliyu Saadu | Staff Writer
ESPN and the NHL announced a seven-year television deal March 10. The new deal will have 100 regular-season games per year on ABC, ESPN, ESPN+ and Hulu. Twenty-five games will be on ABC, ESPN and ESPN +, and Hulu will add 75 ESPN-produced exclusive games to the streaming services starting in the fall.
The network will air an early-round playoff series and one conference final each year. It also will air four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC during the seven-year deal.
This deal in the U.S. is huge. More people will watch the NHL more than ever. More people will talk about it on “SportsCenter” and other platforms in the U.S. The ratings will go up. Casual fans will be more interested in the sport.
Fans in the U.S. will see superstars such as Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and others on ESPN during the season. I believe the league will be covered a lot more than ever on ESPN. The network provides the NHL the possibility of increasing its exposure not just because games will be aired, but also via the strength of ESPN sports talk shows such as “First Take” and “Around the Horn.”
NBCSN is a channel that is hard to find and, according to the Daily Mountain Eagle, is in 80.1 million homes. ESPN is in 83.1 million homes. That 3 million makes a difference in how many more people will be able to watch the NHL on ESPN as opposed to NBCSN.
This deal means so much to the sport of hockey. For the first time in a long time, hockey has an opportunity to become recognized and respected as a top four major professional sport in North America. Sports analysts such as Max Kellerman have publicly stated the NHL is not a top four major sport.
The sports will be supported by the ESPN family of networks, ESPN+, ESPN.com and NHL.TV. These platforms will generate more fans than the league has had. More people will want to play hockey in the U.S. Social media outlets will buzz more about McDavid than they ever have since McDavid has been in the league.
The thing about ESPN is that if your sport is not part of the rights on ESPN, they do not cover you as much. The NHL learned that for 17 years when the league was not part of ESPN’s sports. The league finally will be able to have highlights nightly on more platforms more often. According to statista, since NBC acquired the rights in 2005-06, the Stanley Cup Final ratings have averaged less than a 4.0. The Stanley Cup Final this past year between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars averaged a 1.2 rating, lowest since 2007. When ABC airs the Stanley Cup Final next year, the ratings will go up.
This was the best decision the league has made in its history. For the NHL to be on ESPN again makes the league accessible to the younger generation. The league will relish this partnership with ESPN.