The NHL announced a 10-year TV rights deal with NBC Universal on Tuesday, with the league raking a huge $2 billion payday. It's a great milestone in hockey's post-lockout revival, and with a guaranteed 100 games on TV per season -- including all Stanley Cup Playoffs games -- it's a boon for fans nationwide.
That said, to get an idea of whether the (North) American dollar is being spent: the NHL's new deal pays out the same per year, $200 million, as the Los Angeles Lakers' new TV deal does.
Sam Amick of SI.com recently reported that the Lakers' new deal with Time Warner Cable will net the franchise $5 billion over 25 years, or $200 million per season. Time Warner's new regional sports networks -- there will be a second Spanish-language network -- will broadcast fewer than 100 games; in the NBA, local partners broadcast all regular season and playoff games that don't appear on the league's basic cable anchor, ABC. As it currently stands, a team as good as the Lakers may appear on ABC as many as eight times in the regular season and, if they get to the Finals, a dozen times in the playoffs. So with a title contender, you end up with about 90 or so local TV games. With a lottery team, you end up with 82. We're not including preseason for this exercise.
So the Lakers will be earning $200 million a year for about 90 or so games in two languages. The NHL will be earning $200 million a year for 100 or more games. Both deals are fantastic. But there's a huge difference in what each means for its league. The NHL deal will be divvied among the league's teams; it's a boon not just for the Rangers or Red Wings, but also the Thrashers and Islanders.
The Lakers' deal? That's 100 percent Jerry Buss. Under the NBA's current revenue system, no other team touches a shred of that $200 million a year. There's a separate national TV deal like the NHL's NBC contract that the NBA negotiates and shares with all 30 teams. And each of the other 29 teams do negotiate their own sometimes lucrative local TV deals. But the Lakers' contract far outpaces what most teams receive -- it's almost 10 times larger per year than that of the Clippers -- and when you consider its size compared to that of an entire league ... it puts it all in perspective.
The Lakers are playing a different game than most of their opponents, with a different stack of chips. It's not exactly fair, is it?