The NHL and Turner Sports announced a seven-year contract Tuesday that's highlighted by broadcast rights for the Stanley Cup playoffs and the annual Winter Classic outdoor game beginning with the 2021-22 NHL season.
Turner Sports will air half of the league's yearly postseason games on TNT and TBS as part of a split with ESPN, the NHL's other new media rights partner, and broadcast three of the seven Stanley Cup Final series throughout the duration of the deal.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement about the agreement:
"Turner Sports is known for its outstanding sports coverage, quality and innovation and we are thrilled that this new partnership will provide our fans with the content they love on the platforms and devices of their choice. TNT is a proven and acclaimed destination for sports fans and we will also benefit from the deep connection Bleacher Report has with young digital-savvy fans. Having WarnerMedia join the NHL family as co-rightsholders for the next seven years gives us incredible reach, positions us well for the future as the media landscape continues to evolve, and will fuel continued growth for the NHL and our clubs."
Jeff Zucker, the chairman of WarnerMedia News & Sports, added:
"This agreement with the National Hockey League brings one of the most prestigious championships in sports to TNT and fuels our entire Turner Sports and Bleacher Report portfolio with even more premium content for many years to come. We're delighted to spotlight the world's best hockey league on our leading networks, while continuing to further elevate this marquee property through an ever-expanding array of digital platforms in the years to come."
Along with the Winter Classic, a staple around New Year's Day that changes host cities every year, and the playoff games, the contract includes 72 regular-season contests, streaming options via HBO Max, highlight rights and the ability to create ancillary programming, such as studio shows similar to Inside the NBA.
Further details about Turner Sports' NHL coverage will be released "in the months ahead."
The league is planning to move closer to its typical October-to-June time frame next season. The start of the current campaign was delayed until mid-January because the prior season's Stanley Cup wasn't awarded until September after delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN's Greg Wyshynski reported Wednesday the NHL is hoping to start the 2021-22 season Oct. 12, about a week later than normal given that the Stanley Cup Final concludes in mid-July. Those dates are contingent on the current season's completion without delays.
In addition, the NHL hasn't finalized a decision about whether to release players to represent their national teams in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which would require a multiweek break in the schedule. The league skipped the 2018 Games in South Korea.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported the new media agreements with ESPN and Turner Sports will generate around $625 million per year for the NHL.
The league was previously exclusive to NBC Sports on television, though ESPN had acquired streaming rights in recent years for its ESPN+ platform.
Editor's Note: Turner Sports, which is a division of WarnerMedia, owns Bleacher Report.