The National Hockey League and Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, today announced a groundbreaking digital media rights partnership. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred jointly announced the six-year agreement at NHL headquarters.
The deal awards MLBAM rights to distribute live out-of-market games, including through the NHL GameCenter LIVE and NHL Center Ice subscription services in the United States and certain international markets. MLBAM will operate NHL.com, including the League’s seven native language sites, and Club websites. MLBAM will operate NHL apps and be available to develop apps for the Clubs. The NHL and MLBAM will partner on the design and development of new digital products and platforms. The NHL and its Clubs retain editorial control across all platforms. The Emmy-Award winning MLB Network will provide studio space and production resources for the NHL Network for distribution in the United States and certain international markets.
• MLBAM receives exclusive rights to distribute live, out-of-market NHL telecasts in the United States and certain international markets, including via the NHL GameCenter LIVE subscription service.
• MLBAM receives exclusive rights to distribute live, out-of-market telecasts via the NHL Center Ice subscription service in the United States to cable, satellite and over-the-air broadcasters.
• MLBAM receives exclusive rights to operate the NHL Network as an agent for the NHL. The NHL Network’s daily on-air operations will be based out of MLB Network’s headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.
A little background: MLB Advanced Media is a sister company of Major League Baseball owned jointly by all 30 teams. It is best known for MLB.tv, but it also runs the MLB online store and each of the individual team websites. It’s crazy to think, but when I was a senior in college – in 2005 – I was watching MLB.tv. So to say they were ahead of the curve on streaming would be an understatement.
They power the back-end of streaming services such as CBS March Madness On Demand, the WWE Network, HBO Now and Watch ESPN. And when I worked on the MLB account at GSI Commerce in 2008 and 2009 – working with the MLBAM team to manage the MLB and team online stores – I was shocked to learn that we also had to market MLS gear and the online stores for a couple of random bands and properties. MLBAM does (or at least did that, too). And now they’ll do hockey– so, if you’re a GameCenter subscriber (remember, there will still be local blackouts), you can expect your stream to improve with more options and functionality and better technology. Basically, the league is going to the best to run their service.
What’s surprising, however, is the MLB-NHL Network thing. MLB Network is separate from MLBAM. But it looks like the two leagues network will now share studio space.
One potential issue, pointed out by Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey, is MLBAM imparting its draconian copyright policies on hockey. The latter has always been extraordinarily liberal when it comes to online video sharing. MLBAM… not so much. They’re getting better in this regard, and it sounds like The Shield will have its own say in these matters, but it’s something to watch out for.