Q&A With NHL’s Gary Bettman

The NHL commissioner talks about the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, the league’s upcoming rights negotiations and why hockey is a national sport.
Author:
Publish date:

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman answered a couple of questions about television between periods of a Stanley Cup Finals game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Comcast and NBC are merging. Do you see that as a more powerful entity for the league to be partners with?

The fact that our two U.S. national partners will, assuming government approval, be under one roof, I think is great for the sport. I'm one of the people who are very excited about the prospects of this merger.

Is having your own cable channel (the NHL Network) making you more or less attractive to other television partners?

Actually, you'd have to ask them. We think it's important for our fans. It gives them a greater dimension to the game with more in-depth coverage and analysis than they can get anywhere else.

Hockey is often thought of as more of a regional than a national game. Is that one reason why your right deals...

I don't buy that it's a regional sport. I think if you go back in the history of broadcast arrangements decades ago before you and I were doing what we're doing, the clubs back in the 1970s and '80s made a point of emphasizing regional coverage over national coverage. But the sport was never a regional sport.

In fact, you look at places where we're very strong. We had a night in the last round where the Bruins were playing and the Red Sox were playing the Yankees and the Celtics were playing the Cavaliers, and the Bruins not only beat the other two, they were within 20,000 households of beating them combined. We had a night in Chicago where we beat everything else that was on.

This sport has greater strengths than it historically has gotten credit for, and we're trying to do the things that make people more aware of how terrific a sport this is and how great our athletes are.

Your broadcasting and cable deals are up after next season. Have you started negotiating with NBC, Comcast and any other parties?

No.

Why not?

First of all, we have contractually called-for negotiating periods, which are during next season, and my guess is at some point we may start chatting informally, but at this point it's probably premature on all sides.

With NBC, you've got a revenue sharing deal. Are you looking to get something that's more rights-fee-oriented?

I don't think at this stage it would make sense for me to discuss publicly what it is I'm prepared to discuss with my partners.

In terms of revenue sharing, ratings are up a lot this year. Is the NHL making money from this year's deal with NBC?

We've made money every year.

How much more this year?

We haven't had this year's accounting yet. I presume so.

Related

Q&A: Tina Fey

The '30 Rock' star talks about Jay Leno's new show, Jeff Gaspin replacing Ben Silverman, and why she doesn't want any part of hosting the Emmys in 2010—she thinks.