SBD/Issue 34/Sports Media

NHL Seeking To Grow Exposure Of League In New TV Contracts

NBC Pays No Rights Fees Under
Current TV Deal With The NHL

The NHL's TV deals with NBC and Versus expire after this season, and "beyond the simple goal of generating more money from its next contracts, the league faces the question of how to best grow the game," according to Rachel Cohen of the AP. The league "clearly has far more leverage than it did when it signed a deal just before" the '04-05 lockout in which NBC "paid no fees for the broadcasting rights but instead shared advertising revenues." NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer said the net has a "great partnership" with the league. Schanzer: "It's a terrific product. We are proud to have broadcast some of the most-watched games in NHL and hockey history in recent years and would love to see our relationship continue in the future." But NHL COO John Collins recently "made clear he believes the league has been held back by a lack of exposure." Collins: "Particularly here in the U.S., the hockey fan is so underserved." ESPN officials have "repeatedly said they're interested in possibly televising hockey again but won't comment beyond that." However, Cohen reported the "trade-off in gaining all those extra potential viewers is the NHL would have to compete for time and favorable programming slots with the many other major sports aired on ESPN's networks." Versus has "dedicated itself to deep and frequent coverage of the league," and network President Jamie Davis said, "We cover it like no one else has ever covered it." Versus' NHL viewership through the first five games of the season was up 27% from last year, and its telecast of the Oct. 7 Flyers-Penguins game was the "most-watched NHL regular-season telecast on cable since 2004" (AP, 10/26).

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