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NHL IN THE US COULD LOOK VERY DIFFERENT AFTER NEXT SEASON

NHL viewers in America could soon be changing the way they view games. According to a report from Front Office Sports, NBC's 10-year, $2 billion exclusive deal with the NHL will expire after the 2020-21 season unless renewed, and there are several networks looking to get in on the bidding, including ESPN.

According to the report, NBC is very much interested in retaining broadcast rights to the NHL in the United States. However, the NHL is looking for "hefty rights increases". Several networks are rumoured to be interested in submitting bids including Fox Sports, CBS Sports and ESPN, which has faced lofty criticism from fans for barely even covering hockey, let alone broadcasting it.

Front Office Sports also states several sources are saying NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is interested in splitting the league’s TV and digital rights among multiple media partners — like the NFL, NBA, and MLB do — to maximize rights fees.



The Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent Stanley Cup victory posted disappointing viewership numbers on NBC, with the clinching game drawing 2.88 million viewers. In total, the six-game series averaged 2.03 million viewers, the second-lowest for the league since the 2004-2005 lockout. It should be noted, however, that the NHL doesn't usually have to complete with several other sports during its playoffs, something that was different in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a year previous, NBC averaged nearly 9 million viewers for its telecast of the St. Louis Blues’ Game 7 win over the Boston Bruins, setting a new high for the most-watched NHL game on record.
TIM TUCKER
OCTOBER 26, 2020  (8H28)
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