MLB Advanced Media is continuing its push beyond baseball in a wide-ranging deal with the National Hockey League.
The $600 million, six-year deal gives MLB Advanced Media control over the NHL's television and digital operations, along with the websites and mobile apps for all 30 NHL teams. MLBAM also gets rights to all out-of-market hockey games, which the NHL currently distributes through its Center Ice pay TV package and GameCenter streaming service.
In return, the NHL will get a 7 percent to 10 percent stake in MLB Advanced Media. Beyond just streaming baseball, the tech unit currently powers several online video services such as HBO Now and WWE Network.
Why this matters: The may seem like--wait for it--inside baseball, but it could have deeper implications for online video. MLBAM also recently struck a partnership with PGA Tour, and MLB President of Business and Media Bob Bowman told the Wall Street Journal a big sports bundle is "something that obviously we discussed" and "may come to pass." In light of ESPN's recent subscriber losses and talk of going over-the-top some day, cable TV's grip on live sports is starting to loosen.
Short-term gains for hockey fans
Even if the MLB-NHL deal doesn't cause any immediate industry shifts, it could still be good news for hockey lovers. As Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir points out, the current NHL app is a "near disaster," and could see significant upgrades under MLB Advanced Media. The NHL Network will also get additional studio space and production resources, which could help make it feel like less of an afterthought.
As for streaming video, Muir points to the quick availability of highlights and updates on MLB.com as an example of how the NHL could improve, and NHL GameCenter subscribers could see more reliable, higher-quality streams in the switch to MLB Advanced Media.
One thing that won't change, however, is the availability of in-market games, as those rights still belong to regional sports networks as part of traditional pay TV packages. MLB has been trying to bring in-market streaming to baseball for some time now, and last April made a deal with Dish Network to allow streaming for subscribers, but so far none of the regional networks have allowed it, the New York Post reports.
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