NEW YORK – NBC Sports and the National Hockey League today announced that they have extended their partnership through the 2008-09 season with NBC exercising its option on the NHL. The joint announcement was made today by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
“We’re thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with the NHL,” said Ebersol. “There have been positive signs for the league, both on and off the ice. Ratings were up this year; the Winter Classic in Buffalo was a huge success; advertising sales were healthy; and the product on the ice has never been better, led by young, marketable stars such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. We believe this is a sport that will continue to grow."
Bettman said, “This is great news for the NHL and its fans. NBC has been a great partner and its innovations to the broadcasts have helped bring fans inside the game like never before."
MEN 18-49 UP 33 PERCENT:
Regular-season ratings for the NHL “Sunday Game of the Week” on NBC were up 11 percent over last year. In the key Men 18-49 demo coveted by advertisers, ratings increased by 33 percent.
NHL “SUNDAY GAME OF THE WEEK” PLUS FLEX SCHEDULE:
NBC will continue to broadcast the NHL “Sunday Game of the Week” during the regular season, highlighted by flexible scheduling. Under the flex policy instituted this season, NBC can select from up to three games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, NBC, in conjunction with the NHL, selects one of those games as the "Game of the Week" to be broadcast during the NBC window. The other games remain available to the teams' regional carrier but are not televised during NBC's broadcast window. NBC will air eight of its nine Sunday afternoon games at a consistent 12:30 p.m. ET start time. NBC also will offer extensive coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, up to 15 post-season games in all.
"THE NHL HAS NEVER LOOKED OR SOUNDED BETTER"
NBC's NHL coverage has received critical acclaim, earning praise for innovations such as "Inside the Glass," a reporter position between the teams' benches first introduced by NBC hockey producer Sam Flood. ESPN.com said of NBC's hockey coverage, "the NHL has never looked or sounded better in its free, on-the-air history." The Hockey News called "Inside the Glass," "the biggest innovation to hit televised hockey in recent years" and the Toronto Star said it “is proving to be one of the best broadcasting innovations since the advent of the second camera” providing viewers "with the kind of insights that only someone in that position could get." “Hockey has found a network that will let the sport be the sport," said the San Jose Mercury News. The Daily News said, “[Mike] Milbury has brought reality - and a sharp edge - to the Peacock's NHL studio. He also has displayed something many analysts - in all sports - lack: guts.” “Pierre McGuire’s verbal sparring with Milbury has been nothing short of classic theater,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On May 19, 2004, NBC and the NHL announced a two-year agreement on a partnership for NBC to televise NHL games. That agreement was extended in March of 2007.