Disney and the NHL have just signed a massive new TV rights deal for the next seven years that will see ESPN and ESPN Plus become key places to watch and stream hockey games, starting with the upcoming 2021-2022 season.
It’s the first time that ESPN will offer NHL hockey games since its previous deal expired in 2005, and this time streaming — particularly, ESPN Plus streaming — is a huge part of that deal.
ESPN Plus is effectively replacing NHL.TV as the NHL’s out-of-market streaming service, with over 1,000 games each season available for fans to stream. ESPN and ABC will also get 25 exclusive national regular-season games each season, while 75 games a year will be exclusive to ESPN Plus and Hulu.
Additionally, ABC will get exclusive rights to the Stanley Cup Final for four of the seven years, with the option to simultaneously broadcast those finals games on ESPN Plus and other linear ESPN networks. Furthermore, ABC and ESPN together will get to broadcast half of the NHL playoffs each season, too. (Specifically, Disney’s networks will get one of the Conference Final series and half of all the first round and second round games each year.)
The new NHL deal marks one of the biggest expansions yet for ESPN Plus when it comes to offering live sports from one of the major North American leagues, and it instantly makes the service a must-have for hockey fans across the US. The NHL deal will also offer a new wave of live sports on Hulu, thanks to the 75 games that will be exclusively broadcast on Hulu and ESPN Plus (which, unlike the other ESPN Plus games, will be available to all Hulu subscribers whether they subscribe to ESPN Plus or not).
The news comes just as Disney is rolling out a larger integration for ESPN Plus subscribers to be able to access that additional sport content within Hulu itself, which should help make it even easier for subscribers of both of those services to find the newly added NHL games when they debut this fall.
ESPN Plus alone costs $5.99 per month, or it can be bundled alongside Hulu with ads and Disney Plus for $13.99 per month.
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