Tuesday marked a great day for the NHL and the future of the game. In the mist of the 2011 Playoff campaign, the constant PR nightmare that is the head shot issue, and the threat of relocation of a number of southern based teams, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took care of some business and got the NHL a huge US TV deal with NBC and VERSUS.
With their current TV deal with Versus set to expire, Bettman needed to score big on this next deal. With this deal reportedly being worth $2 billion dollars over ten years, Bettman has finally got his big score. Worth $200 million per season, this deal is a $125 million increase from their current $75 million a season with Versus. With each team currently earning $2.5 million a season from their deal with Versus, each team will now earn $6 million a season.
With this added money to each team, it has increased the competitive playing field for all teams. That extra money can help teams compete in free agency and in dealing with their own players. Small market and salary cap teams can now have a little bit of cash to throw around to stay competitive in this uber tight league.
This new deal will see 100 regular games broadcast on NBC, Versus and its affiliates, and will see the entire playoffs broadcast nationally in the US. This is great news as the NHL is poised to steal some fans from the NFL as their current labour lockout will cause their fans to go searching for their contact sports fix.
The good news for fans from this new deal will be the creative ideas that will flow from NBC and Versus that will bring fans closer to the game. Having already brought fans the commentator between the benches, plans are in the works for a Friday Thanksgiving (US) game that will try to create a new holiday tradition for American families.
This deal still pales in comparison to the NFL TV deal which earns $2 billion each year, or the NBA TV deal which earns $930 million a year. But this deal is huge for the NHL as it came out of the NHL lockout already in poor shape in the US and having to sign a deal with OLN (now Versus) rather than stay on with ESPN for far less money. This deal signifies major growth in the sport in the US and may see the NHL creep back into the sports hearts of America.
Here is a video of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaking about the new US TV deal. Video courtesy of NHL.com.
You have to give Bettman credit where credit is due. Many thought hockey could not survive in the US if it was not on ESPN. Not only has the sport grown, but Bettman secured a huge TV deal with NBC that can reach more casual viewers to turn them into fans. He has also created the Winter Classic and Hockey Day in America that have become staples in the US sports culture. This deal will help ensure the longevity of the sport as it gains a bigger footprint in the US.
I tip my hat to Bettman.
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