It was a surprise when Turner Broadcasting was named as a suitor for the NHL, but a pleasant one. The production on their sports properties (NBA, MLB, NASCAR) is top notch. At the very least, they know how to put together a studio show, as the gold-standard group on TNT's NBA coverage proves every broadcast.
Still, it was hard to believe that Turner would hang in the bidding with NBCUniversal and ESPN because (a) its priorities are in scripted shows and in trying to land some NFL rights in 2013 and (b) the notion that the NHL would end up calling truTV home wasn't likely.
Despite its market penetration (93 million homes, via SBJ and thanks to its former life as CourtTV), truTV still conjured up memories of the NHL's time with OLN/VERSUS as a startup; you know, the "what is this station/where can I find it/why isn't it in my hotel room?" stuff that VERSUS still seems to inspire years later.
After spending billions in recent years to assemble a formidable slate of sports programming, Turner Broadcasting is taking a breather on the rights front, opting not to bid for National Hockey League games that could go as high as $200 million a year.
Mindful of the mantra from his boss, Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes, to be prudent on deals, Turner chief Phil Kent determined in the last week or so that the NHL didn't make financial sense for his nets, said a source familiar with the decision. That leaves current NHL rights holder, NBC and its cable arm, Versus, to square off with ESPN for the NHL rights.
Keep in mind that NBCUniversal has the right to match any offer for the NHL package, and that ESPN still has many cheerleaders among the NHL's brass and Board of Governors.