Buccigross: The Next NHL Television Rights Contract Could Go Anywhere

John Buccigross says that any network or streaming service could make an offer for the NHL's US TV rights.


On the latest Bruins Beat on CLNS Media, host Evan Marinofsky spoke with John Buccigross, SportsCenter anchor on ESPN who also does play-by-play for the network’s college hockey games, about the future of NHL national broadcasting.  

Near the end of the podcast, Marinofsky asked Buccigross, who has been working at ESPN with hockey as his bread and butter since 1996, what he thinks the future of hockey at ESPN looks like.

Buccigross says it’s nearly impossible to predict.

With the current US TV rights contract between the NHL and NBC ending in 2021-2022, formal discussions and negotiations can begin next year around who the NHL will work with next. Buccigross pointed out there are more possibilities than one might think.

“It’s hard to say,” Buccigross said about where TV rights will go. “So anybody out there, whether you’re a TV network like ESPN or FOX, or [even] Apple or Google or Amazon; if they want to get in the game—I mean, let’s face it, those guys could buy the rights for every sport. So you just don’t know.”

The league could also look to do a deal with multiple networks, like the NFL, MLB, and NBA. WHatever route the league chooses, Buccigross “certainly hope[s] ESPN gets a piece. 

“The world is changing fast with streaming. Now, when you’re the NHL, you want to balance maximizing money, but you also still want distribution. The [league] will need to be convinced there’ll be similar distribution,” Buccigross said.

He also acknowledged that those streaming giants like Amazon and Apple would have to build a system for coverage from scratch, and it is no walk in the park to cover all the games in one season or staff all the workers, but it still could be a possibility where there’s profit to be made. 

“I’d love to stay with the company long term,” Buccigross said. “To shift from doing SportsCenter to doing play by play and certainly hockey would be my preference, so I’ll be watching this time next year when it really starts to heat up and the reports start coming out, and suddenly we have a decision when the NHL decides who they’re gonna go with. That really is going to affect a lot of lives.”