A TV contract that NHL players will not see the color of

The giant Disney owns ESPN and ABC. Most importantly, the Disney company has been a business partner of the NHL since it acquired, in the mid-2010s, a majority stake in BAMTech. It is this company that broadcasts MLB, NHL and PGA Tour games online and directly to consumers.

BAMTech has since been renamed Disney Streaming Services. And the NHL, last I heard, has a stake in Disney Streaming Services. For a long time, observers therefore expected that ESPN would be in line to acquire part or all of the next NHL TV contract on American soil.

For the next seven seasons, the NHL therefore ceded to ESPN-ABC what it called its package A, that is :

  • the broadcast of four of the seven Stanley Cup finals presented between 2022 and 2028;
  • the presentation of the association final chosen by the network;
  • half of the other elimination rounds;
  • 25 season games broadcast on ESPN or ABC;
  • 75 season games exclusively presented by ESPN + (ESPN’s online streaming service);
  • ESPN + will also broadcast to its subscribers the approximately 1,100 NHL games that were previously offered to NHL.tv subscribers.

In addition to the sale of this package A, the league is expected to announce soon the conclusion of a second TV contract (the sale of the package B).

The most persistent rumor is that the second-largest US rights holder to the NHL is the NBC network, which has been broadcasting the games in the United States for 10 years.

Experts expect the second package to find takers for some 1.4 billion (200 million per season), still for seven years.

In total, the two new NHL American TV contracts will therefore bring in some 600 million per season, or 260 million more than what is currently generated by the contract with NBC (240 million) and with Disney Streaming Services (100 million).

But, unbelievably, that $ 1.8 billion in new money will slip through gamers’ noses. They may not even get a single dollar.

As I explained in this column last December, the NHL Players Association took a very questionable direction last summer when it negotiated a new collective agreement in the midst of a pandemic.

The NHL suffered colossal losses last spring and this season’s earnings were set to drop by at least 60%. Instead of suffering a significant salary cut for a single season, and thus live according to the real income of the NHL (the famous 50-50 income sharing), the players preferred to maintain their lifestyle and compete in the 2020 season. -2021 on credit, even if it means repaying later. This season, players are paying owners 20% of their wages to repay the roughly $ 280 million they were overpaid last season, just before the pandemic struck.

Despite this, players collectively make around $ 1.8 billion in wages this season. This sum equals (or surpasses) the total income of the NHL in this pandemic year. Normally, the NHL collects about $ 5 billion in revenue per year.

Since a 50-50 revenue split is in effect, players will therefore have approximately $ 1.8 billion in debt to owners at the end of the year. It almost exactly corresponds to the surplus generated by the TV contracts mentioned above!

Until 2026, and perhaps even until 2027, players will reimburse this colossal sum by having 18% of their salary deducted in 2021-2022, 10% of their salary in 2022-2023 and 6% during the years. following, at least until 2026.

During this time, the salary cap will be continuously frozen between 81.5 and 83.5 million. Salaries will stagnate and players will not reap the windfall they have directly created. When they finish repaying the owners, the TV contracts will almost expire.

Interlocutors well acquainted with the matter argue that most players had no idea what they were voting for last summer. They got cheated by their own association, even considers one of them.

The agreement reached between the NHL and the NHLPA adequately protects late-career veterans or young superstars who already hold long and generous contracts like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Connor McDavid.

However, as I mentioned last December, it is the youngest players, who will obtain the right to arbitration or who will reach the age of autonomy in the coming years, who will be strongly penalized by the stagnation of salaries. and the collapse of the autonomy market. We are talking about players like Gabriel Landeskog, Nick Suzuki, Zach Werenski or Matthew Tkachuk.

If the privileged NHLHA had agreed to tighten their belts only for this season, the players of the NHL would collectively prepare to live, starting next season, the most prosperous years in hockey history.

Instead, the youngest will remain frozen until 2026 or 2027 with a salary cap approaching that of 2019.

Goodbye calf, cow, pig … TV contract.

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