Versus Readies for NHL Season; Contract Negotiations Set to Begin
The U.S. TV rights deals for Versus and the league's broadcast partner, NBC, expire at season's end. The channel formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network had remarkable ratings last season, including a record 3.6 million viewers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks in June.
"We will have discussions in the not-so-distant future," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last week. "We will deal with the next contracts in the ordinary course."
Bettman, however, said he wouldn't discuss whether the NHL would talk to ESPN or other outlets as part of seeking a new TV deal. Bettman added that the league is in regular dialogue with its TV partners.
"There is a lot of hype and focus on it," Bettman said. "We are not at the stage viewing it with the same level of scrutiny as it's been getting. That's not to say it's not important."
Versus will kick off the season by televising Flyers at the Pittsburgh Penguins' new arena, the CONSOL Energy Center, on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. ET; the Blackhawks at Colordao Avalanche game follows.