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ESPN, NHL Renew Television Deal

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League and ESPN, Inc. have reached a wide-ranging, multimedia extension of their agreement, highlighted by ESPN's exclusive coverage of the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals and of the All-Star Game. Other elements of the deal include extensive post-season coverage with continued ESPN and ESPN2 exclusivity during the Conference Finals and an additional exclusivity from each Conference Semifinal series (total of two games per series). The agreement covers the 2004 - 2005 season and includes options for ESPN to extend the agreement to the 2005 - 2006 and 2006 - 2007 seasons as well.

ESPN2 will televise 40 fully exclusive regular-season games, on a consistent Sunday and Wednesday schedule. Rights for ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International,, ESPN Classic, ESPN Video-on-Demand, ESPN Broadband and ESPN Wireless have also been secured. The promotional content and sharing agreement with will continue. ESPN and the NHL will continue to collaborate on Interactive TV.

"For many years, the NHL has been an important programming element for ESPN and we are thrilled to continue the relationship," said George Bodenheimer, President ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports. "The increased exclusivity and addition of the All-Star Game will enhance the already outstanding coverage we provide for our fans and the value we deliver to our affiliates and advertisers."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "ESPN has been, is now and will continue to be the definitive cable sports viewing destination, and our partnership with ESPN has been an extremely productive one. We are very pleased that the partnership will continue to be one of growth and we greatly appreciate all of ESPN's efforts and support on our behalf."
Specifics of the agreement include:

* Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals exclusively on ESPN;
* Exclusive coverage of the All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend activities;
* Continued exclusive Conference Finals telecasts;
* Additional exclusivities from each Conference Semifinal series;
* Extensive Conference Quarterfinal and Semifinal coverage;
* 40 exclusive regular-season games on ESPN2 - 23 on Wednesdays, beginning Opening Night, and 17 on Sundays;
* Coverage of the NHL Draft on ESPN2;
* Continued agreements for and ESPN International;
* Select telecasts on ESPN HD and ESPN Deportes;
* Rights for ESPN Classic, ESPN Video-on-Demand, ESPN Broadband, ESPN Wireless.

The agreement is subject to the approval of the NHL's Board of Governors.

ESPN has televised the NHL since 1992, ESPN2 since its launch in 1993. ESPN also televised league action from 1985 to 1988 and had agreements with individual teams from its launch in 1979 until 1982.

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