On Tuesday, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) announced a $600 million deal with the National Hockey League (NHL), which will give the baseball group the rights to hockey’s out-of-market TV broadcasting and Internet streaming.
According to Variety, Major League Baseball’s tech branch will pay $100 million per year to the NHL for six years for the rights to distribute the NHL’s out-of-market games in US markets and in some international ones as well. The NHL will get a 7 to 10 percent equity stake in MLBAM.
MLBAM isn’t just about sports—the technology division supplies the back-end for online streaming services from World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to Sony’s Playstation Vue Internet TV service. In December, the platform found its way into headlines as Fortune reported that HBO would have to scrap its in-house online streaming platform for HBO Now after alleged mismanagement of the project by HBO’s former CTO. HBO ended up signing a contract with MLBAM to bring the highly-anticipated standalone streaming service to fruition.
It seems that MLBAM’s early investment in online streaming infrastructure is paying off. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that MLBAM was in talks with 40 potential partners, “including many traditional TV networks.” Just this past year, the streaming division brought in over $100 million in revenue. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Major League Baseball could begin the process of spinning off MLBAM into a separate company later this month.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement today (PDF) that the NHL’s GameCenter Live streaming would remain largely unchanged for fans. “We’re not turning baseball into hockey and baseball isn’t turning hockey into baseball,” Bettman said. (Although this begs the question: does baseball need more punching? We’re on the fence.) “We’re each going to do our own things in terms of how the content is created,” he added.
Variety reported that MLBAM will “relaunch the NHL’s online properties in January 2016 as a ‘fully integrated global hub of digital content’ that will encompass video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, and statistical and analytical content.” MLBAM will also operate NHL.com, although the hockey league will retain editorial control.