The National Hockey League and Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced a historic partnership Tuesday that will give MLB's media arm control of the NHL Network and exclusive distribution rights to out-of-market games.
"As the market leader, MLBAM is uniquely qualified to assist us in giving hockey fans a richer, more immersive experience with the game," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "MLBAM is also the right partner because they have the expertise to help us deliver new and exciting products to our fans, who crave compelling digital content."
MLBAM, which has drawn widespread praise for its vast coverage of team-specific sites, will also be taking over the NHL's digital media arm. NHL.com, individual team sites and all NHL-licensed apps will now fall under MLBAM's umbrella.
"It is an honor for Major League Baseball to stand alongside the National Hockey League on this joint initiative," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement released by NHL.com. "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."
The deal will begin in January 2016. It will be interesting to see how the partnership works given how protective sports leagues have become over branding in recent years. The NBA, NFL and MLB have launched their own networks and digital arms in recent seasons, in large part to claim some semblance ownership over narratives. They've also become massively profitable entities, raking in subscriber fees from cable providers and offering must-see live content.
The NHL Network has lagged behind, even ceasing operations in Canada beginning next month. Perhaps this can be a best-of-all-worlds solution, with MLBAM's vast resources helping the NHL cut costs while giving MLBAM a chance to become an even bigger media giant.
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