NHL News: League Switches to ESPN and WarnerMedia as Stanley Cup Numbers Recover
ESPN has signed a major TV deal with the NHL

NHL’s partnership with NBC has been a successful one, and it concluded with the final game of the 2021 Stanley Cup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens. The game attracted 3.6 million viewers and maybe the last time NBC viewers see high-end hockey in the near future.

For the last 16 seasons, NHL games have been broadcast on NBC. In a deal signed in March with the National Hockey League, the majority of NHL broadcast and streaming rights will go to ESPN and Warner Media. Starting next season, fans will be able to watch games on ESPN and ABC, with the league expanding its media rights fee to $625 million per season in this new deal.

Stanley Cup Viewer Numbers Recover

Like all sports, the NHL has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has altered the schedules, seen fans excluded from attending live events, and made a whole lot of mess. As things start to recover nationwide, the NHL viewer numbers are spiking up again.

The 2021 Stanley Cup on NBC saw an average of 2.52 million viewers watch the games, with a grand total of 3.6 million watching the final game in which the Lightning lifted their second consecutive Cup. Compared to last year, the numbers are up, as the last season’s six Stanley Cup games had an average viewership of just 2 million.

All of these numbers fade away in comparison to 2019 when the viewership was significantly higher. The seven-game Stanely Cup saw an average of 5.3 million people watch the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues battle it out for the Cup, with millions in bets placed at bookmakers such as Bet365. That said, the numbers are seeing a clear recovery, and it remains to be seen how the next Stanley Cup will rate in comparison when it appears on ESPN for the first time.

Marketing Deals on the Rise

Traditionally, the NHL players have not conducted too much private business in the marketing arena. This has all changed, as the Lightning winger Patrick Maroon decided to take an opportunity during a post-match interview to mention Shavelogic, a company in which he has a personal marketing deal, which was activated with the mention in the interview.

Shavelogic is one of the first to make such a move, after signing a six-figure contract with the player, following an earlier contract made with the NHL to display the brand during Stanley Cup events. It is easy to understand the winger’s decision to get some extra marketing money, with his contract expiring in one year, and valued at about $1 million more. The six-figure payout from Shavelogic certainly adds a nice boost to that number.