ESPN interested in NHL rights

The deal could mean more nationally televised games for the Flyers. (AP Photo/Andy King)

RALEIGH, N.C. -- According to a report on, verified by Business Insider, the NHL may be back on the ESPN family of networks as early as next season.

That’s great news for hockey fans in the United States, who can barely find hockey on Sports Center.

A link to Media Week’s story is here.

Versus, who bailed out the NHL with a $202.5 million deal after the lockout, will surely be in the running for the league’s television rights. Versus is paying the NHL $72.5 million this year for broadcast rights.

Despite quadrupling their advertising revenue last year and their subscribers by 11 million since 2005, Versus - at 75 million households - is dwarfed by ESPN which is available in more than 110 million households.

Versus, which began as the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), is still buried in a lot of cable packages.

Versus has exclusive negotiating rights with the NHL for next season’s contract until January. The network is based in Philadelphia and owned by Comcast.

Comcast’s merger with NBC-Universal could be complete as soon as December, which is an interesting proponent in the deal since NBC holds the NHL’s national network broadcast rights.

The NHL is reportedly seeking a 50-percent increase in rights fees, something ESPN may be interested in matching with the game’s ascension in popularity back to pre-lockout levels.

Either way, the NHL stands to win in the new deal. That can only mean good things for fans.

For the latest updates on the Flyers' team bonding trip in Pinehurst, N.C., and today's GM meetings in Toronto, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter (