Ever since the National Hockey League started hosting outdoor games in Major League Baseball’s most storied parks—like the New York Rangers taking on the New Jersey Devils in Yankee Stadium in 2014—the two leagues have shared a cordial but distant relationship. Today, however, they got a lot cozier.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred came together at the NHL offices in New York to announce a digital partnership that Bettman deemed “transformational.”
Essentially, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) will be taking over operations of the NHL Network, which will now be based out of the MLB Network’s Secaucus, New Jersey headquarters. This means that MLBAM will also be given exclusive rights to distribute live, out-of-market NHL games via the subscription services NHL GameCenter Live and NHL Center Ice, and will bring video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy sports, statistical and analytical content, and apps all under one digital hub.
“We are not turning hockey into baseball or baseball into hockey,” said Bettman during the press conference. The deal allows the NHL to utilize the MLBAM’s advanced digital technology. Both Bettman and Manfred mentioned HBO Now and the WWE Network as models for how to deliver a la carte sports and entertainment content to fans.
The new hub is expected to fully launch in January of 2016. Previously, the NHL’s digital partner had been New York-based broadcast and distribution company NeuLion.
“NeuLion has been a terrific partner,” Bettman said in a statement. “We could not have established the deep foundation we have in digital content without their expertise and talented people.”
MLBAM generates more than $100 million in annual revenue with help from partnerships, including a recent deal to handle the PGA’s digital assets. In February of this year, Shalini Ramachandran of the Wall Street Journal declared that MLBAM was “quickly becoming the go-to vendor for companies looking to stream TV over the web.”