Hockey returns to ESPN with new deal that includes streaming

(Photo courtesy National Hockey League/Graphic by The Desk)

Telecasts of National Hockey League games are returning to ESPN under a new, 7-year deal that takes effect later this year.

The deal was announced in a press release published by ESPN late Wednesday morning. ESPN is jointly owned by the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Communications, with Disney holding a majority stake in the sports broadcaster.

When the deal takes effect later this year, ESPN and ABC will be the exclusive home to 25 nationally-televised hockey games. Another 75 games will be produced by ESPN for streaming on ESPN Plus and Disney-owned Hulu.

Half of all Stanley Cup playoff games will air between ESPN and ABC, and four years of Stanley Cup final games will air exclusively on ABC. Additionally, the NHL’s out-of-market streaming TV service NHL TV will move exclusively to ESPN Plus, bringing more than 1,000 regional games to the streaming service.

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“This partnership of the world’s top hockey league and the platforms of The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our game,” Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, said in a statement. “Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use.”

The deal effectively winds down an agreement between the NHL and Comcast over telecast rights to most national hockey games. Comcast had offered a limited amount of hockey games on NBC while reserving most of the telecasts for its national cable sports channel NBCSN. Earlier this year, Comcast said it would close NBCSN and move sports telecasts to its Peacock streaming service.

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