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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NBC Sports, which has been the NHL's sole national rights holder for the entirety of the Ovechkin/Crosby Era (2004–present), is getting out of the hockey business.

Driving the news: Starting next season, all nationally-televised NHL games will be broadcast by ESPN and Turner Sports.

  • ESPN will pay $2.8 billion over seven years for the league's "A" package, which includes four Stanley Cup Finals. And yes, the theme song is coming back.
  • Turner will pay $1.57 billion over seven years for the "B" package. Games will be televised on TNT and TBS, and HBO Max will reportedly be included in some capacity.

By the numbers: ESPN and Turner will pay a combined annual average of $625 million, which is more than double the $300 million that NBC and Disney Streaming Services pay under the current deal.

Notes:

  • ESPN plans: ESPN executives tell me they've already committed to a weekly, in-season studio show (think: "NFL Live" but for the NHL). Linda Cohn's daily ESPN+ show, 'In The Crease,' will also continue.
  • Peacock thoughts: At launch, it seemed like live sports were poised to be a big part of Peacock's strategy. A year later, not so much. NHL games won't be on the service, and there's no guarantee the Premier League deal gets renewed after next season.
  • Of note: When Turner broadcasts the Stanley Cup Final on TNT, it will mark the first major North American sports league championship to be televised exclusively on cable.

What they're saying: Axios spoke with Burke Magnus, ESPN's executive vice president of programming and scheduling, about what this new era means for hockey coverage on ESPN.

"The hard part about covering a league when you don't have live rights is that you're basically just pulling highlights. You don't have people on the ground, and you're generally dealing with an incumbent rights holder who may or may not want you to be there."
"All of that falls away now, being the NHL's primary partner. And so I'm certain it's going to rise the tide for hockey coverage across our platforms, whether that's SportsCenter, the app, social media, etc. Just because it'll be that much easier to execute."

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Apr 26, 2021 - Sports

America's role in the Super League debacle

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the wake of the European Super League's spectacular demise, a popular response has been to blame Americans.

Zoom in: Four of the 12 founding teams are owned by Americans, American bank JPMorgan was set to finance the project, and the "closed" format is reminiscent of American sports leagues.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Apr 26, 2021 - Sports

Ranking the U.S.' largest media markets

Data: Nielsen; Table: Axios Visuals

Atlanta jumped up three spots and is now the seventh-largest media market in the U.S., according to the 2021 Nielsen DMA rankings.

How it works: There are 201 DMAs, or "Designated Market Areas," in the U.S. They include the urban center and suburbs, plus the surrounding counties that receive the same TV signal.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.