The NHL has steadily increased it's viewership and fanbase in recent years and on Tuesday a joint announcement came that the league plans to stay with Versus and NBC through the 2020-21 season. The package, worth an estimated $2 billion was called the most significant deal in league history by commissioner Gary Bettman. The news of the deal comes just days after the league announced it is on pace to set a record for total revenue in a season at $2.9 billion overall.
NBC will continue to be the home of the NHL and will have exclusive rights. The two have been a partnership for the last six years, ever since the end of the lockout. Due to increased viewership, every Stanley Cup playoff game will air on one of NBC's family of networks beginning in the second round and continuing through the finals and they own exclusive airing rights. Versus will air games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, while the remaining five will appear on NBC.
Versus will also keep the All-Star Game telecast, the national game of the week and outdoor games played in Canada. They will increase their telecasts from 50 to nearly 90 games during the regular season next year. Over the last four years, the NHL's overall television ratings in the United States have gone up by almost 84 percent and the 2011 Winter Classic was the most watched hockey game in 36 years.
“This is the most significant U.S. media rights partnership in the league's history,” Bettman said in a statement. “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.”
The current contract has Versus paying the NHL about $75 million per year but NBC doesn't pay anything due to revenue-sharing agreements with the league. The new deal will easily surpass the $120 million contract the NHL had with ESPN from 1999-2004.
NBC is planning on changing the name of the Versus network, which could happen within the next 90 days.
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