SBJ/September 24 - 30, 2001/This Weeks Issue

NHL signs deal with USA for e-commerce

The NHL has signed a three-year deal that makes USA Networks' Electronic Commerce Solutions its e-commerce provider. USA also picks up the rights to do the NHL's official catalog. USA-owned Styleclick will design and host Web sites for nhl.com and the 30 club sites, while Ticketmaster, another part of Barry Diller's empire, becomes the league's "preferred ticketing technology provider."

Accordingly, there will be a centralized ticketing page on nhl.com, and NHL clubs, 27 of which already have marketing agreements with Ticketmaster, will get that company's ticketing technology at drastic discounts.

"What's important to us about this deal is that we have all our direct marketing initiatives under one roof for the first time," said Brian Fitzgerald, director of commerce and development at NHL ICE.

NHL executives also hope to develop database-driven direct marketing programs. For example, an e-mail pitch may offer licensed product based on which teams a consumer bought tickets for on Ticketmaster. Also critical was USA's promise of marketing support across its stable of media properties, including USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel. Fan loyalty programs are in the offing.

The deal marks another major property win for USA's Electronic Commerce Solutions unit, which handles e-commerce duties for the NFL, NBA, NASCAR and PGA Tour. The NHL's e-commerce functions had been performed by FanBuzz since December 1999, while 1800PROTEAM had published and fulfilled orders from the official NHL catalog.

Separately, the league is recasting its Internet subscription service, now dubbed Total Access. The new service, launching soon, costs $19.95 but includes more information, such as press notes, and gives users discounts on licensed merchandise bought from nhl.com and on NHL sponsors' products. The subscription fee also includes a cap and the annual NHL Yearbook. Still being provided free to fans are NHL radio broadcasts. A searchable pay video database offering, similar to MLB's Custom Cuts, is planned.

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