Exclusive video broadcasting rights for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 has officially been awarded to ESPN. The Cup is to be held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto from September 17 through October 1st, 2016 and will pit eight countries against each other in a round-robin format, followed by a semi-final bracket. The finals will be decided by a best-of-three series for the title of best hockey country in the world, at least until the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The press release specifically cites games will be shown on TV via ESPN and ESPN2. It also mentions live access available via the WatchESPN app, though of course that requires a cable subscription. ESPN nailing down major international sporting events is nothing new — see the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Women’s World Cup — but it is curious to them take hockey. The NHL Network and NBC own the US hockey rights as ESPN bowed out of bidding in 2004.
Last month word broke that unofficially ESPN beat out Fox and NBC for the World Cup, though it is doubtful NBC feels threatened. They probably feel secure in their 10-year broadcast deal running through the 2020-21 season. The Worldwide Leader has come under criticism for trending away from hockey, though President of ESPN, John Skipper disagreed:
Look, I don’t think it’s [the criticism] fair,” Skipper said. “I see SportsCenter every day and we cover hockey every day. We do not have a significant differential between highlights of hockey now and when we had it. The only difference is we are not there [as a rights holder]. If we were there for the playoffs, we’d be throwing to the guys calling the game. We can’t do that, but we are at hockey games. We are doing hockey highlights.
Apparently hockey highlights weren’t enough anymore.
(Header image via NHL)
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