NHL to Stream More Than 1,000 Games on ESPN+, Hulu Starting with 2021-22 Season

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 10, 2021

FILE - In this June 22, 2016, file photo, the NHL logo is shown during a press conference in Las Vegas. NHL free agency day began with two rivals helping each other out of a jam by way of a trade. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone. The teams announced the trade early Monday, roughly 3½ hours before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
John Locher/Associated Press

The NHL will become the first major North American sports league to use a major streaming service as a key part of its new broadcast contract.

Per an official release Wednesday, the NHL announced a seven-year rights deal with the ESPN family of networks, starting with the 2021-22 season.

The Stanley Cup Final will be televised on ABC in four of the seven years. ABC and ESPN will show half of all Stanley Cup playoff games each year over the lifetime of the contract. The two networks will also exclusively air 25 regular-season games every year for the next seven seasons.

ESPN+ and Hulu will stream 75 regular-season games each year from 2021-28. The deal will shift the NHL's out-of-market streaming package "with more than 1,000 games" from NHL.TV to ESPN+.

The ESPN family of networks will also have annual coverage of the NHL's All-Star events and opening-night games.

Hulu will become the first streaming company to be an exclusive broadcast partner for one of the Big Four professional sports leagues. MLB has experimented airing games on its official Facebook page in previous years. Last season, the NFL aired a regular-season game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals on Amazon Prime.

The deal brings the NHL back to ESPN for the first time since the 2003-04 season. NBC has been the primary home for NHL games in the United States for the past 16 years.