NHL unveils ‘historic’ digital media rights deal with MLBAM

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In a way, baseball will power the way hockey fans consume a ton of digital NHL-related media going forward.

More specifically, MLBAM will be doing the heavy lifting, as the NHL announced a “historic” six-year deal with the service, which also apparently powers streaming services for companies ranging from ESPN to the WWE and CBS.

The short version: MLBAM will operate NHL.com and its team sites, the NHL Network, Game Center Live and Center Ice. It will “fully launch” in the first month of 2016.

Here’s a little more information from the press release:

The deal awards MLBAM rights to distribute live out-of-market games, including through the NHL GameCenter LIVE and NHL Center Ice subscription services in the United States and certain international markets. MLBAM will operate NHL.com, including the League’s seven native language sites, and Club websites. MLBAM will operate NHL apps and be available to develop apps for the Clubs. The NHL and MLBAM will partner on the design and development of new digital products and platforms. The NHL and its Clubs retain editorial control across all platforms. The Emmy-Award winning MLB Network will provide studio space and production resources for the NHL Network for distribution in the United States and certain international markets.

There are some interesting side notes to this announcement, including a benefit that may be seen on the ice rather than on a screen.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman provides more details (including some bits that should hearten fans as far as GIFs and highlights go), including a little more on the financial aspects of the agreement:

The annual breakdown: a $100M rights fee to the NHL, $20M in savings from the league not having to invest in the capital resources/expertise it would take to go on its own, and $80M in equity in MLBAM’s technology business.

Please note that the league didn’t confirm such numbers:

Even if certain details may remain behind the scenes, the bottom line is that it could be a nice change for the league and fans alike.

Click here for the full NHL release with available official details, but in summary, the league’s digital side received a significant boost from a service that’s widely considered the best of its kind. Ideally, the complaints people occasionally voice about services such as Game Center’s stream delays will be a thing of the past.