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League to remain on ESPN

wire services
Published May 20, 2004

A day after agreeing to a two-year deal with NBC to televise games, the NHL agreed to a one-year deal with ESPN, which holds an option to extend the deal by two seasons.

The Associated Press reported the first season will be worth $60-million, the next two $70-million each.

The current deal with ESPN, which includes ABC, is in the fifth season of a $600-million package.

There will be 40 regular-season games televised on cable, 30 fewer than this season, on Wednesdays and Sundays. ESPN2 will air most of the regular-season and playoff games, and ESPN will air Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final and the All-Star Game.

Also, the league officially announced its agreement with NBC. It will air seven regular-season games beginning in January and six playoff games, all on Saturday afternoons.

The two-year agreement, in which the league and network share advertising revenue and NBC pays no rights fee, may be renewed for an additional two years at NBC's option. The deal is subject to approval by the league's board.

League commissioner Gary Bettman said he hopes NBC's strong prime-time lineup Thursday and Friday and its presence with viewers 18-49 will draw a larger audience to the Saturday afternoon games. The network plans to do most of the advertising for the games during that time.

BLACKHAWKS: Coach Brian Sutter signed a one-year extension. Chicago went 20-43-11-8 this season and finished last in the West. Its 20 wins were the fewest in the league and fewest for the franchise since the 1956-57 squad won 16. Chicago also had a franchise-record 19-game losing streak.

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