In a way, the
is being partially funded by Comcast, the
' parent company.
Sports Group, a subsidiary of Comcast, is paying the league about $180 million in rights fees this season, and a network spokesman said on Monday that the
will receive all of that money even if no games are played in 2012-13.
There is an asterisk, however. If no games are played this season, the league will grant NBC a "free year at the back end of the agreement," said the NBC spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous.
Last spring, the NHL and NBC signed a 10-year, $1.8 billion TV deal that starts this season and includes the highly popular Winter Classic. The deal has been erroneously reported as a $2 billion deal, the spokesman said.
Theoretically, the 11th year would be worth more than $180 million, so NBC would seem to be gaining in the trade-off and paying for the first year even if all games are canceled.
The lockout "didn't take us by surprise," said the spokesman, "which is why we have protection" at the back end of the deal.
It's fair to wonder how resolute the NHL would be in its negotiating if it didn't have the $180 million guarantee in its back pocket.
Some of the NHL games this season were scheduled to be telecast on NBC, and most were slated for NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus. To replace the NHL games, NBC is showing soccer, boxing, college hockey, and college basketball, along with rebroadcasts of the London Olympics.