Cracking television play-by-play broadcaster John Forslund sees “an interesting frontier” in store for the NHL now that dual US national television rights have been dubbed.
Forslund, who continues to remain one of NBC’s foremost hockey broadcasters during the upcoming playoffs, said on Thursday that new NHL partners ESPN and Turner Sports are inheriting a TV hockey landscape that has been “ solidified ” by his network for the past 15 years. Turner became the league’s secondary rights holder this week with a seven-year deal worth at least $ 1.57 billion, joining ESPN’s seven-year primary deal, $ 2.8 billion announced in March.
With sports, it’s not brain surgery – people just want to be entertained, ”Forslund said. “You have to have a good product. You have to have a good game to surround everything else. So if you bring in a little personality you support the players and tell some stories, I mean that’s a winning formula.
And if you do it with the right means, I think the timing is very good for the fans. Especially with our new (Kraken) team coming up. ”
The NHL will make approximately $ 625 million per season from the combined deals, more than double the current annual US national TV and streaming rights of $ 300 million. New Kraken supporters and longtime hockey fans across the country should see the changes visible across multiple platforms and welcome many to an American product that has been under main control of NBC since 2005.
Obviously, they both have tremendous credibility in the sports world, ”said Forslund of the two networks. “In the case of ESPN, it was pretty clear. And with Turner, they have been able to make their mark on their product and their properties.”
While the ESPN deal, which takes effect next season, will net four of the next seven Stanley Cup finals – showing on ABC – it’s the smaller Turner Sports component of games on the TNT and TBS cable networks that is expected to the greatest will create. change. TNT is critically acclaimed for its NBA coverage and Inside the NBA studio show featuring outspoken Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.
Turner parent company WarnerMedia also owns HBO Max – which will live stream some NHL games – and Bleacher Report and its successful House of Highlights video sports content platform which is popular with younger viewers.
In a conference call with media members, WarnerMedia News and Sports Chairman Jeff Zucker said, “Obviously, I think Turner Sports has a style and an approach, and we want to bring that same approach to the NHL. But you can’t just copy Inside the NBA on Thursday nights. That comes together over time and relationships. ”
Zucker added that he nonetheless wants the NHL package to have a similarly “innovative, fun, and dynamic” approach.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, during the same conversation with Zucker, welcomed those words.
That’s what we’re excited about, ” he said. “We’re counting on it.”
Barkley is a self-proclaimed big hockey fan, so there is speculation that he will be making crossover appearances. But Turner could also seek out an outspoken former hockey player on a par with Barkley, something NBC tried with Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury before both were fired in separate cases for making inappropriate public comments about women.
Forslund might see Turner heading in that direction.
It could be someone brand new that we don’t even expect, ” said Forslund. “There are also others you could look at that have done or are involved in other ventures like podcasts and things like that.”
Former Phoenix Coyotes winger Paul Bissonnette, popular with fans as a player and now co-host of Barstool Sports ‘Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, quickly springs to mind. But that podcast is also where Roenick made his comments about women, so it remains to be seen where the NHL and its new TV partners will head.
Retired Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks defender Kevin Bieksa is also widely acclaimed as an outspoken sophomore analyst at Sportsnet in Canada. Unlike Barkley and fellow TNT studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal, Bieksa, Bissonnette and other hockey personalities like Milbury, Roenick, Barry Melrose and Don Cherry (or arguably the most infamous hockey analyst of all time) were Hall of Famers.
The thing about the Turner basketball show and when you watch Fox with baseball they bring in Hall of Famers, ”said Forslund. “They bring in Hall of Fame players who also have big, big, big personalities. That is a difficult mix. Hockey over the years, actually, by the nature of the game … hockey players aren’t like that. So to find someone who is that package I mean maybe they will. ”
Among hockey’s Hall of Famers with outsized personalities and TV experience, former St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars great Brett Hull ticks all the boxes. Hull, 56, worked briefly as an analyst for NBC in 2006-07 and teamed up with Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada during that year’s cup final.
Women could also take on a bigger role in future NHL broadcasts, with presenter Kathryn Tappen handled by a woman’s most prominent studio work in NBC’s coverage.
North of the border, Jennifer Botterill, a former Canadian national team and professional hockey player – and the sister of Kraken assistant general manager Jason Botterill – is being hailed as a breakout star in her NHL analyst debut with Sportsnet this season. Botterill teamed up with Tappen in the studio on a groundbreaking all-women broadcast in March 2020 of a St. Louis-Chicago match on NBC.
- Former Botterill national team counterpart Cassie Campbell-Pascall has worked on the airwaves as a reporter and analyst for Hockey Night in Canada since 2006.