Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 08/18/05 at 08:46 AM ET
ESPN’s decision not to match Comcast’s offer for the NHL television package may have been a result of more than just a high rights fee. According to sources, Comcast’s deal with the NHL to put the games on OLN also includes the genesis of an NHL network in the U.S., for which Comcast can assure distribution to 21 million cable households. The deal also includes a clause that the cable network carrying hockey will have to air the games on its primary sports network. Those may have been deal breakers for ESPN, who first of all would not want to put the low-rated NHL on its main network, but would rather show the games on ESPN2. And unlike cable operator Comcast, ESPN does not have the ability to guarantee carriage for a startup channel. As for the OLN deal, sources said Comcast offered to pay $65 million the first year, $70 million the second year, and an option for a third year at $72.5 million. (The previous deal was $60 million annually, a price at which ESPN previously turned down an option). Both sides have the option to pull out after the second year, including an NHL option to back out and shop for a new partner if OLN does not reach a guaranteed number of households by that time. Further backing the talk that Comcast is shaping OLN to become a more mainstream sports network, sources said the company is sniffing around for smaller rights packages for big sports, including the Sunday-Wednesday baseball package currently held by ESPN, which expires this season. Sources said OLN is a possible outlet for the package should ESPN not renew. ESPN also has a separate deal to air a limited amount of post-season baseball in a deal that came to Disney when the company purchased the Fox Family Channel, which held the rights. That deal expires at the end of next season. OLN has also been mentioned as a possible suitor for a proposed Thursday-Saturday package of NFL games, although it remains to be seen whether such a package will be created by the league
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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