NHL announces 10-year deal with NBC Sports Group

Posted: April 20, 2011

Even with ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner jockeying to win over the NHL's U.S. television-rights package, the league announced a record-breaking, 10-year deal with NBC Sports Group yesterday to retain the network as the home of hockey on cable.

Somewhere, Flyers chairman Ed Snider is jumping up and down.

The decadelong pact is reportedly worth $2 billion, or $200 million per season, which is a far cry from the $77.5 million that Versus paid to air 50 games this season. Before being purchased by Comcast under the NBC Universal umbrella in January, NBC hadn't paid to broadcast the NHL nationwide, opting instead to share revenue with the league.

"When we looked at the entire package and the relationship, it was clear we were going to stay with the incumbent," commissioner Gary Bettman said in a conference call. "But it's nice to go out and find you're pretty."

ESPN paid $120 million for a 5-year deal that expired in 2004, which was not renewed after the 2004-05 season-long lockout. ESPN issued a statement yesterday saying it had "constructive conversations with the NHL and wish the league continued success."

With the new deal, Versus - which had its highest ratings ever this season - will jump from 50 televised games per year to 90.

NBC Sports Group president Dick Ebersol said Versus will change names within 90 days to reflect its association with NBC.

"This is the most significant U.S. media rights partnership in the league's history," Bettman said. "NBC Universal-Comcast is one of the most important, connected and wired media companies in the U.S., and as the potential of the NBC Sports Group is realized, the importance of our relationship will become more apparent to hockey fans and our business partners."

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