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Monday, July 15, 2024

ESPN’s NHL Deal Leads to Higher Viewership, More Subscribers

NHL
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Viewership for the NHL’s playoffs on ESPN jumped 30% from last year’s average on NBC, and ESPN’s overall hockey growth can partly be attributed to leveraging more verticals.

Broadcasters are airing key events like the Super Bowl on network television, some games on cable, and the majority on streaming services.

ESPN airs hockey games on its linear channels and the ESPN+ app, averaging 1.1 million viewers per playoff game. The ESPN+ subscriber count has grown 62% in the last year to 22.3 million, and ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro credits hockey as a “significant” part of the boost.

Disney has rights to air 25 regular-season games on ABC or ESPN, 75 on ESPN+ and Hulu, and hundreds of games usually run on local channels.

ABC gets exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup for four of seven years. ESPN has also added hockey-themed shows.

ESPN has grown its female viewership 73% year-over-year.

“We’re going to see this model for the next five-to-seven years until streaming matures,” Daniel Cohen, a media rights consultant at Octagon, said.

The leagues benefit, too.

  • ESPN will pay the NHL $400 million annually until 2028.
  • Warner’s Turner Sports struck a deal with the league for a separate package that will pay the NHL $250 million per year.

Too Good to be True?

During the quarter ending in April, programming and production costs hiked 48% to $454 million for ESPN+, while Disney’s direct-to-consumer business lost $887 million.

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