NEW YORK -- Almost one year into a landmark digital media rights partnership, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday they believe the deal has benefited both sides.
The six-year contract, which was signed Aug. 4, 2015, allows Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the technical arm of Major League Baseball, to serve as the host of all of the NHL's digital properties, among them NHL.com, NHL.TV and NHL Network.
"[MLBAM] has been extraordinary," Commissioner Bettman said during an appearance with Manfred at Paley Center for Media in Manhattan. "Bob Bowman (MLBAM president and chief executive officer), who not only created but presided over it since its inception … has made it the leading enterprise for streaming live sports. They're cutting edge, extraordinarily professional. They're great at what they do."
Commissioner Bettman said a review of the NHL's digital-media presentation led him to MLBAM. There also was a comfort level professionally and personally with Bowman, whom Commissioner Bettman said he's known for almost 25 years.
"We were reviewing all of our options both on the strictly vendor side and also what other more integrated solutions or possibilities were there for us," Commissioner Bettman said. "Based on our knowledge and understanding and respect for what [MLBAM] had accomplished, we thought that this would be the best opportunity for us to provide the best experience for our fans to connect to the game using technology both today and into the foreseeable future.
"I knew I could have gone to [the NHL Board of Governors] and said give me a couple hundred million dollars and two years, and if we got everything right, we might be as good as [MLBAM]. And since Bob and Rob had the vision, maybe there's something new we could create with year-round programming and other things as well. This would be a good opportunity for Baseball and for us to work together."
MLBAM provides digital support to other outlets, among them the PGA Tour, HBO and WWE. Manfred said the partnership with the NHL has pushed MLBAM to another level.
"There's some natural synergy seasonally for us," he said. "We had network capacity, studio capacity, things that made sense for both organizations to use more fully. … There's two business models there. We do provide vendor services for people, but the NHL and the deal with the PGA Tour are more content-acquisition deals in our perspective and I think were important signals to the market as to what we thought the business could be."
As the partnership continues to evolve, there will be more growth on all platforms. That includes the relaunching of the club websites in September, and the continued refining of a ubiquitous user experience regardless of how you access NHL.com, whether it be through desktop computer, tablet or mobile device.
"Everything they've done for us has been first-rate," Commissioner Bettman said. "That's what we expected going in and they have delivered on the promise."