Fox, Turner Showing Early Interest In NHL's Cable TV Package
Fox and Turner are "taking an early look at the NHL’s cable TV package, raising the likelihood that the league will have a competitive bidding process -- with as many as four networks -- as it negotiates new TV deals this year," according to Ourand & Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Versus’ exclusive negotiating window "ended in late January, leading the league to send out feelers to several networks to gauge interest in the NHL’s TV rights." The league "reached out to ESPN, which held the NHL’s TV rights from 1992 to 2004, and is still engaged in talks with Versus, its current rights holder." Versus is "expected to make a strong bid to retain the NHL, which is the Comcast-owned channel’s highest-rated programming." But the league’s outreach to Fox and Turner "shows that it wants to build an auction process that will push the TV rights package well above the $77.5 million annual payout it gets from Versus." Sources at those two programming groups said that while things "still are in the exploratory stage, they are interested in examining the rights package further" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/28 issue).