Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 08/09/05 at 08:16 AM ET
Comcast and National Hockey League negotiators have worked out a two-year deal for more than $100 million to televise games beginning this fall, according to sources directly involved in the discussions. The agreement must be approved by the league's Board of Governors. The deal calls for Comcast to televise two games a week nationally. The cable giant plans to put the games on its Outdoor Life Network (OLN). The agreement with Comcast brought to an end 10 days of intense negotiations, some of which were conducted at Comcast's offices in Philadelphia. Participating in the discussions were NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Comcast president of programming Jeff Shell, Comcast Cable president Steve Burke, and Alan Singer, an attorney for the company. Comcast would televise games nationally twice a week. On one of those nights, Comcast would retain exclusivity in U.S. markets as the only game available on TV at that time. The NHL would retain the right to exit the agreement at the end of the two years. The right is contingent upon Comcast's fulfilling certain responsibilities related to advertising-revenue growth and reaching a specific number of homes. If the league opts to stay, then Comcast has a one-year option, followed by a three-year option. An undetermined number of games would be broadcast in high-definition TV. If the NHL approves the deal - and that is considered a formality at this point - the contract will be forwarded to ESPN. In April, ESPN opted to not renew its $70 million option to televise NHL games for 2005-06 and 2006-07, but the network retains the right to match the new offer, according to a source. ESPN has carried NHL games in the United States since 1985. There are two directions Comcast could go from here: an overhaul of OLN or an initial change to accommodate hockey, with a future, stand-alone network that would carry NHL games. The former is the preferred method among Comcast executives.
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