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Amazon acquires partial Canadian NHL broadcast rights

NHL broadcasts on Prime

In a move that could reshape hockey broadcasting in Canada, along with Canadian sports betting, Amazon has secured a multi-year deal to acquire a portion of the national NHL broadcast rights from Rogers Communications.

While the official terms haven’t been disclosed, reports suggest Amazon will stream a minimum of 26 games per season, which will be exclusively available on their Prime Video platform. This marks the first significant foray by a major streaming service into broadcasting NHL games in Canada.

The deal comes as Rogers’ current 12-year, $5.2 billion agreement with the NHL nears its expiration in 2026. Industry insiders believe this is just the first step for Amazon, with potential future bids for a larger share of national rights or even exclusive packages.

“With Prime Monday Night Hockey, we’re offering our customers even more from their Prime membership,” says Magda Grace, head of Prime Video, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in a press release. “We’re committed to driving more innovation for fans as we bring the NHL into more Canadian homes and across more devices on Monday nights than ever before. We’re thrilled to be offering Prime Monday Night Hockey as part of our one-stop entertainment destination, which includes add-on channels like Sportsnet for even more hockey and sports content, the latest movies to rent or buy, popular and award-winning Amazon Originals to stream with Prime and so much more.”

Opportunities and challenges

For Canadian hockey fans, the news presents both opportunities and challenges. The accessibility of Amazon Prime, coupled with its potential for innovative broadcast features, could be a welcome change. However, concerns remain regarding subscription costs and potential blackouts for those without Prime memberships.

Diehard hockey fans across Canada have expressed a range of emotions. Some see the Amazon deal as a positive step, citing convenience and the potentially wider reach of streaming services. Others worry about the potential for exclusivity, rising costs and how it could make betting that bit more difficult if they can’t watch the game.

After all, ice hockey has its fair share of enthusiastic online bettors, many of whom use sports betting sites in Canada. According to Neil Roarty, gambling industry expert at Best Sports Betting Canada, similar to many online casinos, the customer support, user experience and fast withdrawal speeds of the top sportsbooks are just some of the reasons players continually come back for more.

But, with the NHL now being at least partly limited to streaming, the consequences for gambling fans remains to be seen.

It’s not the first time Amazon has muscled into the sporting arena, either. Amazon Prime Video has quickly been making strides in acquiring sports broadcast rights, especially outside of the U.S. In the UK, for example, Prime Video’s exclusive rights to stream select Premier League matches have proven to be a triumph, drawing in more and more fresh subscribers.

The streaming giant has also secured broadcasting rights for prominent sporting events in France and Brazil. In France, fans can tune in to catch the action of Ligue 1, the nation’s premier football league, as well as the esteemed French Open tennis tournament. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Prime Video has emerged as the go-to platform for soccer enthusiasts, offering live coverage of the Copa do Brasil, a revered knockout tournament in Brazilian football.

The future of hockey broadcasting

The Amazon-NHL deal signifies a broader trend in sports broadcasting. Traditional cable and satellite providers are facing increasing competition from streaming giants like Apple TV+ and Disney+. These platforms see live sports as a key driver for subscriber growth, and the NHL is likely just the first domino to fall.

“This deal demonstrates the NHL’s growing value and global appeal,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with Amazon to bring hockey to a wider audience in Canada.”

Some unanswered questions

While the initial agreement is a significant development, several questions still remain unanswered:
• Blackouts and Local Coverage: Will Amazon respect existing regional broadcast rights held by local networks?
• Subscription Costs: How much will the additional Prime Video package cost for NHL content?
• Broadcast Features: Will Amazon leverage its technology to deliver innovative broadcast experiences?

The impact on Rogers

Rogers, the current rights holder, is likely to remain a major player in NHL broadcasting. Analysts predict it will continue to hold a significant share of national rights, focusing on weekend games and playoff coverage. The company may also look to bolster its own streaming service to compete with Amazon.

A new era for sports fans

Amazon has clearly shown ambition in the sports broadcasting space. The NHL deal in Canada is another step in that direction, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pursue similar deals for other major sports leagues in the future, both domestically and internationally.

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