Rogers NHL pact sees Canadian operator double Comcast's hockey rights fees

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Rogers Communications (NYSE: RCI) said Tuesday that it'll shell out $5.2 billion over the next 12 years to distribute National Hockey League games in Canada on devices ranging from TVs to tablets.

The rights deal, the biggest ever for the NHL, will see the Canadian cable operator and wireless phone carrier more than double the license fees that Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) pays the league to carry hockey games on NBC and cable channel NBC Sports Network.

Rogers, which will distribute the games on Sportsnet, outbid Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and French-language network TVA for NHL rights north of the border. But the company announced sub-licensing agreements with CBC and TVA which will allow CBC to continue airing its popular "Hockey Night in Canada" games on Saturdays. TVA will pay Rogers to air hockey games with French commentary on multiple platforms.

Comcast turned heads in 2011 when it announced a 10-year, $2 billion rights deal with the NHL, outbidding hockey distributor ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner Broadcasting. Hockey, which has struggled domestically in the battle for viewers with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, is one of the only pro sports that ESPN doesn't carry.

In addition to rights to distribute or sub-license hockey games on national networks in Canada, Rogers said the deal gives it rights to broadcast hockey games on TV Everywhere, streaming video and wireless platforms. It also gets to sell the "NHL Center Ice" subscription package, and controls terrestrial and satellite radio rights.

Rogers said it'll pay the NHL $300 million in the first year of its contract, with annual payments escalating to more than $500 million by the 2025-26 season.

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