20 October 2011
Not long ago, I wrote a post on how the NHL should expand their viewing audiences by making the game available to the European fan. I argued that in order to increase the fan base, the game must be available to the general audience. To start the process going, I suggested signing a radio deal with the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to air live games during the night hours. Apparently, the NHL was already ahead of me.
Today, news broke that the National Hockey League has agreed to a huge European TV deal with a company called Modern Times Group. The new agreement will last for five years and is valued at more than $50 million US dollars. Modern Times Group (or simply MTG) will be broadcasting NHL games in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Apparently the league has also confirmed deals in other parts of the world such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Czech. Republic, Slovakia, Africa, and the Middle East. Making the league internationally known has been a high priority for Gary Bettman and the rest of league officials. These new deals will allow the game to step up to an entirely new level of exposure. Fans' mark of discovery will come in form of pay channels and online streaming services. There will also be some opportunities to see games on free channels.
For those who didn't know, before these deals were struck, ESPN had the distribution rights of the NHL for the international market. Now that ESPN is in the past internationally, the business working relationship has separated even wider than before. In a statement made by John Collins (COO of NHL), the league began to examine the international market once their 10 year deal with NBC was over: "Once we’d concluded our NBC deal we focused on going country-by-country to look for the right partner to serve our fans and broaden the NHL brand internationally".
In 2011 alone, the NHL has secured $2.05 Billion US dollars over the next 10 years in television rights and they will see that number rise if they can sign deals in Russia and Germany. If you follow rumors, you'll know that those two countries are next and deals are close to being made. One would think that the only other market the NHL might target would be the Asian markets. Japan could be a short term target but I doubt that any other country would of interest to the league at this point.
Bottom Line - What does this all mean?
To sum it all up, this means that the NHL has finally broken into Europe for the long run. While starting the season in Europe has its benefits in generating excitement, broadcasting the North American game will do wonders. The league will able to showcase talent before they select their teams to send over. If the league finds these new ventures successful, don't be surprised if they can generate 150 million to 200 million in the following TV deal. However, all of the news today could be severely damaged if the CBA negotiations turn south after the 2011-2012 season.