The NBC Sports Group and the National Hockey League have reached a new 10-year rights deal which is believed to be worth $2 billion.
Versus, which was paying $77 million a year for the cable rights to NHL games became part of the NBC Sports Group when its owner, Comcast, acquired a majority of NBC Universal earlier this year. NBC held the broadcast rights to the NHL under a revenue sharing pact. The new rights deal is worth at least double what the league had been receiving under the previous arrangement.
NBC Sports Group outbid ESPN and Turner Broadcasting to continue airing NHL games. In addition to the TV rights it had, NBC is receiving extensive new digital rights as well as some scheduling changes to create opportunities to develop a new special event along the lines of the very successful Winter Classic played on New Year's Day.
The rights deal is the first under the new NBC Sports Group and is a particularly important play for Versus, which has super-served the puck sport and delivered the league's best cable's ratings, surpassing the performance of previous rights-holder ESPN, which dropped the sport following the lockout that shutout the 2004-05 season.
The NHL and NBC scheduled a press conference to announce the deal Tuesday afternoon.