As ESPN gets set to spend north of $2 billion for their new NFL Media rights agreement, there’s also a growing sentiment that the Worldwide Leader will reemerge as a player to televise NHL games.
In 2011, NBC and the NHL signed a 10-year contract worth $200 million annually, and the league is expecting to land a more lucrative deal in their next round of negotiations. With their current contract set to expire after this season, NBC is reportedly very interested in retaining a partnership with the NHL, but according to a recent report by The Athletic, ESPN could push for a portion of the league’s American TV package.
Since the NHL partnered with NBC Sports, the network has done plenty to help grow the NHL. The Winter Classic, Hockey Week in America and nationally televising every Stanley Cup playoff game has seen the NHL regain some popularity in the U.S. That popularization is also what has other networks interested in acquiring NHL broadcast rights.
Currently, the NHL’s national TV package is paid for exclusively by one network. But splitting their broadcast rights similarly to the NFL, MLB and NBA, would likely offer a more lucrative financial return.
ESPN+ already has a deal to air NHL games almost nightly, but the network hasn’t carried a live NHL game on linear television since 2004. ESPN still employs Barry Melrose, Linda Cohn, Steve Levy and John Buccigross as the faces of its NHL coverage, so they have an infrastructure of talent on board to cover the sport.
Chael Sonnen Agrees To New Deal With ESPN
Sonnen has worked with ESPN as an MMA analyst since 2015.
Chael Sonnen has a been a big part of ESPN’s dive into MMA over the past decade and he’s not leaving anytime soon. The former UFC title contender has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with ESPN. Sonnen’s role will largely remain the same, with him covering UFC fight weekends and co-hosting Ariel & the Bad Guy on ESPN+.
“To quote the late, great, Glenn Frey ‘So much has happened; but nothing has changed.’ After so many wonderful experiences, I’m glad to say I am STILL with the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN. Just re-signed. Here’s to the future with ESPN,” Sonnen said in a press release.
The former-NCAA All-American wrestler has been with ESPN since 2015 and his role expanded to fight coverage in 2019 once the company obtained the UFC’s full broadcast rights. Prior to ESPN, Sonnen was a UFC analyst for FOX Sports and a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen,” which aired on FX, and “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil: Team Wanderlei vs. Team Sonnen.”
“We are thrilled that Chael will be with us for years to come,” ESPN Vice President of Production Glen Jacobs said. “Even as an analyst, he still has the biggest arm and the greatest charm. Without doubt, Chael remains undefeated and undisputed and helps make ESPN the place to be for UFC fans.”
Sonnen reached two title fights in his UFC career. Once in the Middleweight division against Anderson “Spider” Silva and another in the Light Heavyweight division versus Jon “Bones” Jones. He lost both fights but finished his MMA career with a 30-17-1 record.
“There’s not a lot of ways to participate,” Sonnen said. “You always have to stay humble and very grateful to have a way. Aside from getting in the ring and taking and trading the punches and the kicks. There’s not a lot of ways to get to be a part of it, and ESPN has definitely found a way and allowed me to contribute.”
Fans can catch Sonnen and Ariel Helwani on Ariel & the Bad Guy, airing on ESPN+.
Kendrick Perkins Signs ESPN Extension
Perkins has worked with ESPN since retiring from the NBA following the 2018-19 season.
Kendrick Perkins has a new deal. Carry On.
The retired NBA player turned media star signed a multi-year extension to remain with ESPN as an NBA analyst. Perkins has been working with ESPN since retiring from his 14-year NBA career in 2019. He is a frequent guest on “The Jump,” “First Take,” “Get Up,” and “Hoop Streams,” a streaming show airing on social media before marquee NBA games.
“I’m really happy about it, because I really enjoy it, and I don’t think a lot of people expected me to do this when my career ended,” Perkins said to Boston.com. “At first when I started doing TV stuff, people were like, ‘Man, Perk, he’s so country, he talks slow,’ and things of that nature. But now people know who I am now, the individual, and they know what they’re going to get from me.”
Perkins will continue wearing the analyst hat for ESPN and NBC Sports Boston on their Celtics coverage. The former-Celtic has had to juggle his time since retiring two years ago.
“My schedule works out well,” said Perkins, “The majority of the shows I do for ESPN are throughout the day on weekdays. So I’m able to do the Boston job because it’s mostly in the evening time. The only time the Celtics have an afternoon game is really on the weekends, so I’m able to do that too because most of the time I don’t have anything to do [for ESPN]. And if I do have something for ESPN on the weekend, it’s usually early in the morning ‘SportsCenter’ or the late evening ‘SportsCenter,’ so it’s pretty easy to manage the two.”
Fans on Twitter have come to know Perkins by his signature “Carry On” sign-off for all of his tweets. The sports media career of the big fella from Beaumont, Texas is ready to do just that.
NBC To Either Sell RSNs Or Move Them to Peacock
NBC Sports Philadelphia planned to stream games on Peacock but that idea was shuttered.
NBCUniversal might not be in it for the long haul with their regional sports networks. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the company is “exploring” a move of their RSNs to Peacock or selling off the portfolio.
The teams playing on these networks could be the first bidders to pounce as NBC tries to figure out their next move.
Streaming was in the company’s plans starting this spring with NBC Sports Philadelphia scheduled to test out the strategy. They scrapped those plans before baseball season over fears that it would alter NBCUniversal’s company-wide streaming strategy.
The media giant has already confirmed it is shuttering its national NBC Sports Network at the end of this year. The shutdown is the latest move showing their hesitance around the future of RSNs. The avenue has been a money machine for a long time because of the high fees cable providers agreed to with networks. As more people cut the cord and splice their media purchasing, those fees get harder to justify.
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, regional sports networks collectively had 145.8 million subscribers last year, down 23% from 190.2 million in 2014.
A potential buyer other than the teams playing on the networks is Sinclair Broadcast Group. They own the Bally Sports family of networks after signing a licensing deal with the gaming company this year. Sinclair plans on rolling out streaming-only subscriptions for 19 of their networks beginning in 2022.
The plan NBCUniversal was implementing involved airing games on both the RSNs and their entertainment streaming service Peacock. Phillies fans could’ve been able to watch games on Peacock and regular TV, now that plan is off the table. Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that NBC Sports Philadelphia may lose profitability as early as next year. The battle for media attention continues in a rapidly changing landscape.