Hockey East on Wednesday announced one of the most lucrative media rights deals in college hockey, placing more than 300 games next season on the ESPN platform of networks.
The agreement places every men’s and women’s game on the ESPN platform, most of which will be broadcast on ESPN+, the network’s monthly pay streaming service. The network, which is attainable for $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually, also broadcasts all ECAC Hockey games.
“I would say likely [say this is one of the biggest deals in college hockey],” said Hockey East commissioner Steve Metcalf. “We were looking for a good partner, but there’s lots of components to be a good partner: exposure for our brand, exposure for our players and a financial piece.
“We have so many players going on from our league to the NHL, and now that ESPN is the home for the NHL, it’s a natural synergy.”
The agreement includes all men’s and women’s home games throughout the season as well as the entirety of both the men’s and women’s postseason tournaments. The Hockey East Women’s Tournament Championship is set to be televised annually on an ESPN network.
It is expected that a portion of the Hockey East schedule will remain broadcast regionally on NESN, New England’s regional sports network, which will continue to broadcast the men’s championship.
That said, ESPN sees a direct link between its hockey relationships and the new agreement with Hockey East.
“With our commitment to the NHL, increasing our footprint in the college space made so much sense,” said Dan Margulis, senior director, programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “We have relationships with most of these schools through their membership in partner conferences in other sports and the timing worked out perfectly.”
The deal will create a new standard for broadcasts for all of Hockey East’s member institutions, something that is critical to a broadcast standard for ESPN.
“As time goes on, the production capabilities of our schools have increased,” said Metcalf. “Now maybe things are looking a little more uniform with different teams playing.”
There is a desire to market these games to Canada as well to Europe, where a significant percentage of Hockey East players make their home. There will be continued negotiations to make online access to those areas possible.
Still, the synergy to ESPN, which already has rights to the NHL, the ECAC and the Premier Hockey Federation, a women’s professional league, makes the new Hockey East deal dynamic.
“When you factor in the NHL and Hockey East in addition to our other relationships in this space with the ECAC, the PHF, etc., we provide a great offering for the men’s and women’s hockey fans,” said Margulis. “We are excited to work with Steve Metcalf and help achieve his vision for the conference.”