The NHL-MLB Digital Media Partnership: What it Is, What it Does, and What it Means

If you’re an avid sports fan, you might have any variety of sports apps on your phone that, every once in a while, work in conjunction and blow up your notifications feed within a matter of seconds.

This would usually only happen when something really big happens, or when something that transcends multiple sports takes place and needs to be reported by all leagues and media outlets – hence the multiple notifications on your phone.

That happened this morning when the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball announced a new digital media deal that is expected to be worth somewhere around the $1.2 billion dollar mark.

So, what is the deal, exactly? And what does it mean for fans?

What it Is: The deal is an agreement struck between the NHL and MLB Advanced Media, the company that handles MLB’s complete online presence, which includes (among many other endeavors that aren’t baseball related) and the MLB official website. MLB’s online presence is widely considered the best of the Big Four (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), and the hope is that MLBAM can improve the NHL’s online presence.

What it Does: Ideally, the deal will do what it is meant to do – strengthen the NHL’s online presence. The official site and team websites are not horrible, but they are nothing to write home about, either. In all likelihood fans are only going to these sites for specific reasons, rather than making them a must-visit site during a daily “web surf”. If you don’t have GameCentre, you’re likely not going to for updates, either, as it’s slow to load and doesn’t provide much info.

On the other hand, MLB GameDay, MLB’s “live updates program”, for a lack of a better term, is the only place any baseball fan will and should be going to for game updates, as it provides an experience as close to watching the game live as you can get without, you know, actually watching the game live.

MLBAM will also be tasked with improving the NHL’s streaming program, NHL GameCenter LIVE, which is a decent product that could use some “sprucing up” – and faster loading times, to say the least.

What it Means: First, what it doesn’t mean: it would appear that the deal will also be taking over the NHL network, so Bettman might want to get to working with MLB on that (MLB Network is a fantastic channel with daily content, whereas NHL Network is usually showing games you wouldn’t have cared to watch when they were on live). For fans, it will hopefully mean a much more inviting, interactive and faster online hockey experience – be it on the website or while streaming multiple games on GameCenter.

On the surface, all this points to is the NHL making a concerted effort, with the help of MLB, to improve the digital content that they provide to their fans.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a deal without the significant dollars involved. The NHL will reportedly get a 7-10% equity in MLBAM, while also pulling in an estimated $100 million per year in rights fees – so the NHL will be adding to their hockey-related revenues, too (which helps increase the salary cap, by the way).

Say what you want about Gary Bettman, but the man knows how to make money. Second, and perhaps more importantly: the NHL is coming off the first year of their $5.2 billion dollar deal with Rogers, and have likely gathered a ton of information on what worked and what didn’t.

Without getting into too much detail, it’s pretty clear that the NHL is making this investment to improve how the content gets to its consumers, so that their major deal with Rogers doesn’t go to waste – and if the deal does what it’s supposed to do, we may be entering the golden age of hockey consumption.

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