Thought the World Cup of Hockey was the last of ESPN’s hockey coverage?
Not so fast.
Even though the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” nearly cleared house of its hockey reporters this spring, it could be broadcasting NHL games as soon as early 2018.
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In a press release Tuesday parent company Disney announced that it has acquired majority ownership of BAMTech, the streaming service started by Major League Baseball. Disney went in for 33 percent of the company last August for $1 billion. Tuesday it acquired an additional 42 percent for $1.58 billion.
“The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers, and our control of BAMTech’s full array of innovative technology will give us the power to forge those connections, along with the flexibility to quickly adapt to shifts in the market,” Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger said in the press release. “This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”
So how does this affect the NHL?
According to the release, the acquisition of BAMTech also hastens the start of a “ESPN-branded multi-sport service” that will be available through the current ESPN app. It will reportedly work independently of streaming service ESPN3. The new venture will broadcast 10,000 live events between MLB, NHL, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis and some college sports.
NBC Sports, which has the NHL’s broadcast TV rights through 2021, announced recently that it will air nearly 100 games this season. The Flyers have 16 of their games this season nationally televised on either NBC or NBCSN.
The Disney release says that MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live will still be available for subscriptions. That may not be the only change to come about in hockey.
In August 2015, NHL Network agreed to be managed by BAMTech (it was called MLBAM at the time) and that has been the case for the last two seasons.
It’s unclear if the network will see any changes as a result of BAMTech now being run by Disney.
Dave Isaac; 856-486-2479; firstname.lastname@example.org