Tuesday afternoon, the NHL and MLB Advanced Media announced a partnership that could change the way fans watch the game. The six-year deal will see MLBAM operate the NHL Network, GameCenter Live and the league’s websites.
A six-year deal between NHL and MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) will be bringing big changes to the NHL’s digital operations.
Tuesday afternoon, commissioner Gary Bettman, along with commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred, announced the NHL has come to an agreement with MLBAM as it pertains to the operation of NHL Network, the NHL’s streaming broadcast service GameCenter Live and the league’s websites.
In addition, as part of the agreement, MLBAM will also be able to develop and operate team-specific apps, digital platforms and provide studio and production resources to the NHL.
“Two professional sports leagues in North America have never entered into an agreement of this nature, and there’s a reason for that,” said Bettman. “Digital rights partnerships are extremely complicated. The digital revolution, or evolution, is changing every day. And a digital rights deal certainly isn’t something Rob or I could have formalized over drinks at our Cornell reunion.”
Bettman said the partnership will allow the NHL and MLB to do more than ever before when it comes to digital content.
“By combining our resources we believe the possibilities are endless,” Bettman said. “This type of partnership never has been tried before and we believe the opportunities are both unprecedented and unlimited. We’re dreaming bigger and broader to create the best possible fan experience.”
When it comes to changes to GameCenter Live, one of the things fans using the service could expect is some of the integration that has made MLBAM’s MLB TV the gold standard in streaming sports. The MLB’s streaming games include on the fly stats and it could be something the NHL toys with when the service gets rolled out.
One hope for fans who use the streaming service would be truer live streaming capabilities. Currently, fans using the service have been subject to streaming hiccups, such as a delay between live game action and the streaming video. In the Twitter age, where fans often use social media alongside the game, having a streaming service that can keep up with live action, something that other major leagues can offer, is important.
“Imagine what (MLBAM’s) technology can do with the speed of our game,” Bettman said. “In this partnership, (MLBAM) is getting access to our content and we are getting their world class technology, today and as it evolves.”
Bettman added that, with this partnership, if you want GameCenter Live with one team for the season, it will become an option for fans. MLBAM will have the rights to broadcast out-of-market games in the United States and some international markets.
MLBAM has been a go-to for streaming service for several companies, including HBO, ESPN and World Wrestling Entertainment.
"It is an honor for Major League Baseball to stand alongside the National Hockey League on this joint initiative," said Manfred. "All of us in sports share a desire to distribute our games and tell our stories as widely and broadly as possible. Because of our own experiences in delivering baseball to its loyal fans, MLB Advanced Media is uniquely suited to excel in a partnership of this magnitude."
Prior to Tuesday’s deal, NeuLion had been the NHL’s main digital partner. The NHL release stated NeuLion will continue to work with the league, and aid in the transition, through to January 2016.
According to a report from Sports Business Daily, the six-year agreement is worth, “approximately $1.2 billion.” However, Bettman said reports of the valuation were incorrect.