The National Hockey League is talking to four parties interested in the cable TV telecast rights--ESPN, Comcast, Turner and Viacom's Spike TV, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
ESPN exercised its option to drop the final year of its rights following the end of this past canceled NHL season. ESPN was paying $70 million per season for the rights. With the expected ratification of the new players' collective bargaining agreement this week, the next season is on schedule, and now the cable rights talks have heated up.
Sources close to the talks said they are just in the preliminary stages and there is no deadline for reaching a new TV rights agreement. The NHL has a deal already in place for next season for the broadcast TV rights with NBC, but that is a revenue/expense share deal, in which the NHL does not just get rights money.