You better get used to Versus (and NBC) because they’re here to stay. The NHL signed a 10-year deal (10 years!) to stay with the networks – a deal that is reportedly worth $2 billion, or $200 million/season. This is a huge step up from the current contract, which pays the NHL a mere $75 mil/year.
Is this good news for the league? Well, they got a 10-year commitment, and the $2 billion figure sure looks nice. The NHL is still a lightweight when compared to the other major sports leagues (in terms of TV contracts), but this was the sweetest offer available. Versus made the NHL its top priority, which certainly wouldn’t be the case with ESPN. I think it’s a good thing that the NHL is the sport on any network.
Is this good news for the fans? Well, I guess that depends on whether or not you like Versus/NBC. Sure, it isn’t ESPN. But the long-running joke about not being able to find Versus on the dial has grown stale. At this point, just about every basic cable package offers the network. If you like hockey, you can find it without problem. And after some initial growing pains, Versus made appropriate adjustments in their pregame and postgame shows. In my opinion, the network does a good job covering the sport. The numbers don’t lie – viewership was up 17% over last season.
As a bonus, Versus is increasing the number of regular-season telecasts from 50 to 90 games next year. That’s a real big boost. The NHL has a TV deal for the next decade, and that’s a good thing. Versus is the home of hockey…and it’s channel 603 if you have DirecTV.