UMaine hockey game streams will be better next year thanks to new ESPN deal

Ken Ralph is thrilled Hockey East has landed a six-year media rights deal with ESPN and ESPN+.

“Quite frankly, it was a necessary step for the league in terms of upgrades in this area. I’m thrilled with how it all turned out,” the University of Maine athletic director said. .

The games were streamed on CBS Sports. Ralph said it would be a significant upgrade.

“There was a very big gap in the quality of streaming available on CBS Sports. But moving to ESPN, with their resources and expectations, the quality will be much higher and much more consistent from a production standpoint,” Ralph said.

The deal sees all men’s and women’s games air on ESPN+ starting in the fall and continuing through the 2027-28 season. This will include more than 300 games per year, including playoff games.

The Hockey East women’s tournament championship game will be broadcast on an ESPN network.

There will also be three games broadcast on ESPNU each season.

Hockey East associate commissioner Brian Smith said he’s been working on the deal for six years.

“Schools will still produce the games but ESPN has the infrastructure in place and has higher standards,” said Smith, who was also excited about the deal.

“That was always the end goal,” Smith said.

Additionally, ESPN paid the league a rights fee, which CBS Sports did not. Smith said they were not authorized to discuss the financial terms of the deal.

“It’s a really big deal,” Ralph said. “A lot of hockey leagues air their productions for free just for exposure.”

UMaine AD said another benefit for Black Bear fans is that ESPN+ also has an agreement with America East, the league in which UMaine competes in all of its other sports except soccer, which participates in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“So now our fans will be able to watch all of our teams [except football] on one serve instead of two,” Ralph said.

It costs $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year to subscribe to ESPN+.

CBS Sports has a $4.99 monthly plan or a $9.99 premium plan.

Ralph was also thrilled that women’s hockey was getting the exposure it deserved.

ESPN is in the first year of a seven-year contract in the National Hockey League after a 16-year absence.

The network has covered the Frozen Four for several years, and it added the women’s Frozen Four in 2021.

Ralph said adding college hockey to its platform will benefit ESPN and its NHL coverage.

“ESPN is proud to add the rights to Hockey East, one of the sport’s premier conferences, to our ever-growing lineup of top-tier hockey leagues and events,” said Dan Margulis, Senior Director of Programming. from ESPN, in a press release. .

“With half of the more than 300 games devoted to women’s hockey each year, we are thrilled to help the sport grow on ESPN platforms.”

Hockey East has also entered into a multi-year extension of its partnership with the New England Sports Network, which dates back to the league’s inception in the 1984-85 season.

NESN will televise at least 50 Hockey East games each season, including playoff games like the men’s semifinals and the championship game from TD Garden in Boston.

“Hockey East programming is an integral part of our network and how we serve our New England sports fanbase, so we are incredibly thrilled to have extended our partnership again,” said the President and CEO of NESN, Sean McGrail.

Catherine J. Martinez