The NHL, Turner Sports, ESPN, and the Nashville Predators

Apr 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) is congratulated by teammates after a goal during the second period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) is congratulated by teammates after a goal during the second period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The once-considered afterthought in major sports in North America, the National Hockey League, is making money moves and putting other leagues on notice. On the heels of a groundbreaking deal with ESPN that I outlined last month, the NHL just added the cherry on top by adding another broadcast deal with Turner Sports (TNT, TBS, etc.). It will have major ramifications not only on the league but the teams within it like the Nashville Predators.

Turner Sports is getting Stanley Cup coverage AND Winter Classic coverage on its family of networks, but that only scratches the surface of what this means for the league. From money to production to how it affects teams like the Nashville Predators, there’s a LOT to unpack.

Let’s break it down.

More from Predlines

Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all

The new deal with Turner Sports is worth $225 million annually, over seven years. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change.

Adding that figure with the $400 million annually, over seven years from ESPN, the league can expect $625 million in broadcast revenue, for a total of $4.375+ billion over seven years.

That’s a number the league has never even sniffed at, let alone something your typical hockey executive couldn’t imagine in their wildest dreams a decade ago.

The NHL already doubled its broadcast revenue via the ESPN deal, compared to the broadcast deal that has been in place with NBC (which will effectively lose all coverage of the NHL moving forward). Now with Turner Sports in the fold, it’s added a VERY hefty cherry on top of the revenue sundae.

At the same time, this will affect the salary cap available to teams, including the Predators. With a bigger cap, teams like Nashville can become bigger competitors in the free-agent market, especially with big names already locked up in long-term contracts.

It’s no secret the league has lost revenue due to the COVID19 pandemic over the last two seasons, but when you see revenue streams like that, it’s pretty obvious they will be covering their losses in short order.

Not only will these TV deals increase the league revenue and subsequently the cap, but they will also increase ad revenue. Because the NHL isn’t solely tied to NBC, spread across two families of networks in ESPN and Turner Sports, there is more room for advertising, and more revenue is good for the league, good for the game, and good for teams like the Predators.

The league will retain its local broadcast deal with the Bally Sports regional networks (for better or worse, those who have come to despise the Sinclair Media Group like myself). Still, there are more avenues than ever before to watch hockey.

The streaming option being on ESPN is still huge (especially for a diverse market like Nashville), and the league is about to vastly invest in and improve its product on and off the ice in more ways than just revenue.

Hockey Broadcast with…PERSONALITY??

Before I get into this point, I want to give a MASSIVE shoutout to the home team of Chris Mason, Willy Daunic, Lyndsay Rowley, Terry Crisp, Kara Hammer, Hal Gill, and Pete Weber. They play a HUGE role in the Smashville experience for the Nashville Predators loyal fanbase.

It stings that Bally Sports can’t play nice and give a fair deal to so many content providers, but as far as broadcasters go, the Nashville Predators team is cut from a different cloth and truly elite.

All that said, many have watched the NBC coverage with utter disdain. The intermission, pregame, and even post-game coverage are about as interesting as watching paint try, AFTER taking melatonin.

For the longest time, the national broadcast for the NHL has been less than interesting, and in a sport that is still the fastest growing in the 18-29 demographic, you can’t be boring. You HAVE to have personality.

Enter Turner Sports

Sure, not every game will be on the family of networks, but Turner Sports is the same media family that has given us one of the most interesting and fun-to-watch programs in the “Inside the NBA” coverage.

That’s not to say the NHL has a line-up of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and others just yet. BUT, if the direction Turner takes with the NHL is anything CLOSE to the direction they take with the NBA, the fans are in for a real treat.

As I said before, hockey is one of the FASTEST growing sports in North America. Adding entertainment value only helps the game to grow faster, even among the most casual of viewers.

If the ESPN/Turner deal seems familiar, it’s the same family of networks the NBA broadcasts on, and both families of networks have won Emmy Awards for their respective coverage. The NHL and the Predators could see a huge bump in production quality, and that’s big.

What it Means for the Nashville Predators

The increased revenue will close the gap on losses from the pandemic while also pushing long-term revenue to never-before-seen levels for the league and its teams. This will help the Predators as they work to continue to bring talent to Smashville in the quest for the Stanley Cup while also allowing the franchise to reinvest in the team while furthering its investment in the city and the southeast region as a whole.

On top of the revenue, giving hockey a personality, or at least a better one, and broader reach for younger demographics is huge. The Turner Sports crew know-how makes the small market fanbases feel engaged, and trust me; I’m a Phoenix Suns fan – I’ve seen it myself in the NBA atmosphere.

A city like Nashville, and the fanbase the Predators have cultivated, deserves an entertaining product, and Turner Sports will bring just that while ideally pushing ESPN to do the same.

At its core, the Predators have more ways to engage fans than ever before and a chance to be on the biggest of stages through more platforms than they have ever been able to reach – the footprint is going to be big.

On top of that, those platforms are bigger than  NBC’s sports platforms, and now that NBC Sports is going the way of the dodo, the NHL can move full steam ahead in carving out its spot in North American sports in bigger ways than has ever been possible.

Between streaming, original content, and more entertaining platforms that present greater opportunities to showcase the Predators, and really the city of Nashville, in bigger ways, ALL Predators fans should be stoked for what’s to come. The game is growing, and we’re about to be spoiled with hockey in ways like never before.

Let’s just hope ESPN and Turner Sports get the memo on the shots-on-goal counter. Please.

Connect with me in the comments and on Twitter, and let’s discuss why you think this is good or bad, or break down even more details about the deal. I need a reason to use my Sports Administration degree.

Must Read. Nashville Predators: Top Players They Could’ve Drafted But Didn’t. light