By Barry Janoff
August 4, 2015: The NHL, which enjoys staging some of its jewel games outdoors, is teaming with a league that plays most of its games outdoors in what was called a "groundbreaking digital media rights deal."
The NHL has signed a six-year agreement with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the interactive media and Internet company of MLB, which gives MLBAM exclusive rights to distribute live out-of-market games; exclusive rights to operate NHL Network as an agent for the NHL; and will see MLBAM operate NHL.com, club Web sites and NHL apps.
Under terms of the arrangement, the NHL gets a stake in MLBAM of between 7%-10%.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but industry analysts said the MLBAM would pay $100 million annually in rights fees and, placed the value of the deal at $1.2 billion.
"As the market leader, MLBAM is uniquely qualified to assist us in giving hockey fans a richer, more immersive experience with the game," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "MLBAM is also the right partner because they have the expertise to help us deliver new and exciting products to our fans, who crave compelling digital content."
Earlier this year, MLBAM, which handles MLB TV, signed a multi-year deal with the PGA Tour to create PGA Tour Live, described as a "digital over-the-top subscription service featuring exclusive, live Thursday and Friday morning coverage of more than 30 PGA TOUR events per season." PGA Tour Live launched last week at the Quicken Loans National.
Among other partners, MLBAM also handles WWE Network and Sony's PlayStation Vue internet TV service.
The deal with the NHL comes as MLB is planing to spin off MLBAM into a separate company.
According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, "It is an honor for Major League Baseball to stand alongside the National Hockey League on this joint initiative. All of us in sports share a desire to distribute our games and tell our stories as widely and broadly as possible. Because of our own experiences in delivering baseball to its loyal fans, MLB Advanced Media is uniquely suited to excel in a partnership of this magnitude."
The NHL and MLBAM said that the partnership would "transform the fan experience by creating a fully integrated global hub of digital content that encompasses video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, along with statistical and analytical content."
Key among its rights, MLBAM has exclusivity to distribute live out-of-market games, including through the NHL GameCenter LIVE and NHL Center Ice subscription services in the U.S. and certain international markets.
MLBAM and the NHL said they would collaborate on developing new digital products and platforms while enhancing current offerings
The NHL Network's daily on-air operations will now be based out of MLB Network headquarters in Secaucus, NJ, MLBAM expects to fully launch its NHL presence in January 2016.
According to Bettman, "We couldn't have North America better covered than with the power of NBC, Rogers, TVA and MLBAM — an incredible convergence of technical, creative and production talent that is great news for our fans."
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