Ever since the National Hockey League (NHL) began to play some of its matches “outdoors” in the major league’s best known stadiums, the two leagues have had a good relationship with each other.

Baseball and ice hockey have been coming closer together for two years now. This is just one of the many examples of successful Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) projects. The company is considered to be one of the most exciting players in the sports business.

Launched in 2000 as the core of MLBAM, MLB.com was financed by 30 clubs under an agreement for $1 million  per year for four years – totaling $120 million. To the owners’ delight, the website began to generate excess revenue as early as 2003, so the teams were able to start making a return on investment after only investing about $70 million. The 30 clubs now receive annual dividends. In 2014, these are estimated to have been between $7 and $8 million per club.

Under the six-year contract with NHL, MLBAM has now acquired the distribution rights for all out-of-market games for a total of 600 million dollars. This includes the release via NHL GameCenter LIVE, NHL subscription services in the USA and various international markets. MLBAM also operates NHL.com, including all foreign language versions and all NHL Club websites.

MLBAM reaches undreamt-of heights

NHL and MLBAM will work together on new digital products and platforms for design and development. The clubs retain control over the content of all channels. The MLB Network offers the use of studios and production resources for the NHL Network for distribution in the USA and some international markets. In addition, the NHL now holds seven to ten percent of the MLBAM spin-off “BAM Tech.”

It’s groundbreaking to have two leagues doing a rights deal. (John Collins, NHL COO)

The road to becoming a “major player” within the media world was marked by several key moments:

  • Providers of back-end infrastructure to stream MLB games for millions of users
  • Provider of authentication services for ESPN
  • White label service for HBO Now and the WWE Network
  • Content purchasing, e. g. digital media rights of the PGA for online and mobile media

Crowned by the NHL deal, MLBAM has successively developed further to position itself as the “Next Big Thing” within the sports media industry. With the spin-off BAM Tech, the company aims to become the ESPN of the digital age and will be competing with companies such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon in the future.

In August 2016, Disney announced the purchase of 33 percent of BAMtech’s shares. The value: $1 billion dollars. Disney CEO Bob Iger back then:”We think it’s a good investment. We love the business model. And we think that the ability to stream live sports with a scalable model is a necessary competitive advantage these days.” Disney actually picked investing in BAMtech over investing in Twitter.

A year ago, BAMTech agreed to pay at least $300 million for the exclusive streaming and monetization rights for League of Legends competitions.