Live hockey is coming to HBO Max, thanks to a new seven-year deal between the National Hockey League and WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports. The news may come as a bit of a surprise, as, only a few weeks ago, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said sports would not appear on HBO Max in 2021.
Alongside HBO Max stepping into the sports streaming spotlight, Turner Sports also announced that TNT and TBS will air the Stanley Cup three out of the seven years outlined in the deal. (Specifically, WarnerMedia’s channels will air the championship series in 2023, 2025, and 2027, according to the NHL.) The remaining years will be hosted by Disney’s ESPN Plus and ABC, as part of the sports league’s other major streaming deal, now that its contract with NBC is ending this year. WarnerMedia’s various properties will also be able to broadcast:
Half of the conference finals and half of the first two rounds of playoffs each season
72 regular-season games per season
The NHL Winter Classic each season (exclusively)
For any diehard cord-cutting NHL fan, this creates a tricky scenario. To make sure you’re able to watch the Stanley Cup for the next seven years, you’ll have to either alternate between HBO Max and ESPN Plus or use the NHL’s own streaming service, NHL.TV, if you live somewhere one of the other services isn’t available.
ESPN Plus currently costs $5.99 per month, or $13.99 per month bundled with Disney Plus and Hulu. HBO Max costs $14.99 per month. NHL.TV costs $34.99 for an “All-Access Pass” to the 2021–2022 season or $29.74 for one specific team’s games. (The NHL says some games won’t be on NHL.TV if they’re available on local over-the-air TV.)
Bringing live hockey to HBO Max is notable because the brand really isn’t known for live sports. Outside of airing some tennis and boxing, HBO’s biggest investment in sports media has come in the form of documentaries and series, including the Peabody Award-winning Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
While it may confuse the already-confusing HBO Max content library, having some kind of live sports programming increasingly seems to be table stakes for any streaming service that wants people to stay subscribed. Amazon does it, Disney does it on Hulu and ESPN Plus, and ViacomCBS’ Paramount Plus also has a solid sports offering. If anything, WarnerMedia is doing the expected — which, for any hockey fan who’s already subscribed to HBO Max, should be a nice addition.