SBD/February 9, 2011/Media

NBC, Versus Likely To Hold On To NHL Rights As Talks On Long-Term Deal Continue

Keeping NHL rights seen as key to NBC's plans for Versus, Sports Group
Talks are "continuing on a long-term deal that would keep" NHL games on NBC and Versus "for anywhere between four and seven years," according to a source cited by Stu Hackel of SI.com. There have been reports that a "bidding war is developing over the NHL's rights on both broadcast and cable," but there are "indications that NBC and Versus will hold onto the packages, although the rights fees will be steeper." There also have been reports that the "exclusive negotiating period between the NHL and Versus had expired although the NHL-NBC talks were still in a window of exclusivity." However, now that NBC and Versus are the "same entity, the Versus part of the deal is still very much alive as NBC is negotiating the new contract as a national broadcast and cable package." Hackel reported within the TV industry the "thinking is that NBC's retaining the rights to the NHL is crucial, not just to its effort to upgrade Versus, but also for the prestige of NBC Universal's new corporate structure and the new NBC Sports Group, as the NHL contract is their first deal to be negotiated." The source said Comcast-Spectacor and Flyers Chair Ed Snider "won't let the NHL leave" Versus and NBC. The source added that ESPN is "unlikely to win any part of the national cable package." Hackel noted with Versus and NBC "now negotiating as a unit, the NHL can claim its games are worth a good deal more than they were coming out of" the '04-05 lockout. NBC's ratings for last year's Blackhawks-Flyers Stanley Cup Final were the "highest in 13 years and the NHL has created some properties -- the Winter Classic, the Las Vegas-based awards show, for example, while enhancing others such as the All-Star Game -- that potentially make the new contract more valuable." An NHL owner said that he "expected the Versus part of the new deal to increase" 50% (SI.com, 2/8).
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Versus, NBC, NHL, Comcast Corp., Media

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