SBJ/June 27-July 3, 2016/Media

Fox, NHL agree on in-market streaming

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Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

After five years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Fox Sports and the NHL finally have reached an agreement for in-market streaming, according to several industry sources.

No contracts have been signed, but the two sides have agreed to allow Fox’s regional sports networks to stream NHL games in their local markets by the start of next season. Fox will make the live games available to authenticated users, meaning that viewers will have to subscribe to cable or satellite services if they want to access the stream.

The streaming deal is wrapped into other deals involving rights outside of a team’s home market. All told, Fox is paying an annual rate in the low eight figures combined for the streaming and outer-market deals, sources said.

The deal ends years of frustrating negotiations that mainly bogged down over price. The NHL has long believed that local streaming would be popular with its fan base, which skews higher when it comes to being tech savvy. Once Fox and MLB signed a local streaming deal earlier this spring, a market rate for in-market streaming was set. Fox Sports’ MLB deal has it paying around $2 million per team for the rights to stream games in market, sources said.

The NHL deal is significant in that Fox Sports now has in-market streaming deals with all the big sports leagues that offer it. It signed its first in-market streaming deal with the NBA three years ago and completed the MLB deal earlier this spring. It has not released any consumption information or adoption rates for its local NBA or MLB streams, so getting a sense of viewer interest has been hard to gauge.

The NHL breakthrough came in recent months as some of Fox Sports’ linear TV NHL deals were expiring. Fox was in the midst of negotiating a new outer-market rights deal for its RSNs — a deal that enables Fox to carry, for example, Kings games in Los Angeles’ “outer market” of Hawaii and Blues games in St. Louis’ “outer market” of Kansas City.

Fox and the NHL also were negotiating around the NHL’s planned new Las Vegas franchise and coverage areas. Fox carries Ducks and Kings games in the Las Vegas market, but will have to give up rights to that market when the new team starts in 2017. By contract, Fox was due to get a rebate from the teams since it was going to have to scale back its distribution from Las Vegas.

NBC Sports Group, the country’s other big RSN operator, still has not cut in-market deals with MLB or the NHL, though sources said NBC executives still are talking to both leagues.

Fox RSNs hold the local media rights to 12 U.S.-based NHL teams: Blue Jackets, Blues, Coyotes, Ducks, Hurricanes, Kings, Lightning, Panthers, Predators, Red Wings, Stars and Wild.

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