The rights for the National Hockey League may become a battleground as ESPN is gearing up to make a bid, reports Mediaweek. Comcast’s Versus, the incumbent cable rights holder, has first dibs, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman planning on meeting with Versus to discuss a renewal before the holidays, the article says.
Still, the NHL is open to a new TV partner, the story adds. While Versus pays $72.5 million per year to carry the games, NBC’s broadcast deal is based on an advertising-sharing pact, the story notes.
It’s also possible that a formal agreement could be postponed until January, when the Comcast-NBCU deal should be closed, allowing the companies to make a joint offer.
As for ESPN, if it does make a bid, it would considerably increase the NHL’s asking price, the story notes. It adds that team owners want full broadcast compensation and as much as a 50% increase over the current rights fee. That would equal $110 million annually, it says.