What to expect from the NHL/MLB Advanced Media partnership

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What to expect from the NHL/MLB Advanced Media partnership
What to expect from the NHL/MLB Advanced Media partnership

The way you consume NHL media will change during the 2015-16 season. On Tuesday, the league announced it has formed a digital rights partnership with Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

From the NHL:

The partnership will transform the fan experience by creating a fully integrated global hub of digital content that encompasses video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, along with statistical and analytical content. With an emphasis on deeper access into the game and telling the stories of NHL players, MLBAM and the NHL will collaborate on developing new digital products and platforms while enhancing current offerings.

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So, what does this all mean? Glad you asked.

Why MLBAM?

This deal has been three years in the making and is the first of its kinds. MLBAM was founded in 2000 has powered all 30 team websites and streaming media like the MLB At Bat app. The company also runs the streaming side of things for ESPN, WWE Network, and HBO.

“Together we represent year-round programming and limit-less opportunities to service our fans,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on a media conference call Tuesday. “Over the last year, we were in the digital market place deciding what we wanted to do next, looking at all of our options. John Collins and I and [MLB Commissioner] Rob [Manfred] and [MLBAM President] and CEO Bob [Bowman] and I shared a vision that together two sports could do more, be more and have more possibilities than one.”

MLBAM will hold rights to all of the NHL’s platforms, as well as the distribution of NHL Network, NHL Center Ice, NHL Game Center Live.

How long is the deal for? 

Six years, beginning in Jan. 2016. MLBAM will pay the NHL approximately $100 million a year over the course of the deal, according to Elliotte Friedman. Bettman said that the reported numbers of the deal ($1.2B value over the six years, via Sports Business Journal) were too high.

SBJ also reported that the NHL will take on a 7-10-percent equity stake in MLBAM.

That extra cash generated will become hockey-related revenue, which could mean a bump in the salary cap down the line. 

When the puck drops on opening night in October, things will still look as they are. The NHL’s current partner, NeuLion, will help the league through the transition. Once New Year’s Day 2016 arrives, that’s when we’ll see the big changes, and things will continue to evolve over time throughout the life of the partnership. 

“I don’t even think we could tell you today where ultimately this is going to take us,” Bettman said, “but it’s going to be more and it’s going to be better than anything either of us has done to this point.”

How does this partnership affect NHL.com, NHL Network, NHL Center Ice and NHL GameCenter Live?

MLBAM will distribute live out-of-market games through CI and GCL in the U.S. They will also take over control over all 30 team websites - the NHL and its teams will retain editorial control — and their mobile apps. For CI and GCL, the traditional package will be available where you get every game that isn’t on national TV or you can get a team-specific package. Want to watch only the seven Chicago Blackhawks games that aren’t on NBC this season? There will be a specific package for that.

For NHL Network, they will move their studios to Secaucus, N.J., where MLB Network currently resides. The league and MLBAM will build around their three staple programs: NHL Live, NHL On the Fly and NHL Tonight. NHL COO John Collins said they are open to improving NHLN, which has needed a serious upgrade in original content for several years.

“There’s significant opportunities to improve,” Collins said.

“We think this is an opportunity to not only improve the content, but to improve the production values as well,” said Bettman.

Will this deal be tied into the NHL’s player tracking talk?

That’s the hope. Collins told Friedman that placing a chip inside every puck was too costly a venture. Bowman told Collins MLBAM will test with in-rink cameras going forward, hoping the data recorded can be just as useful. 

MLBAM has been very adamant about not allowing fan-created social content like gifs and Vines. What happens now?

That remains to be seen, but given the NHL’s history of being very open with such fan-created content you’d have to believe/hope things won’t change with this new partnership. 

Said Bettman on the call: “We’re constantly reviewing our rules and procedures, and to the extent that they need to be adjusted they will be if we determine that that’s appropriate.”

“We distribute our content with our logo embeddable and shareable with everyone,” MLBAM President and CEO Bob Bowman told Friedman. “In general, what the league has asked for is ‘Don't roll-back, what’s being done is being done.’”

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Given what MLBAM has been doing in baseball and the upgrades that the NHL’s platforms have needed, this is a welcomed partnership. There's reason for hockey fans to be excited about Jan. 1, 2016.

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