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My Prediction: NHL Meets Its Maker In 2009

NhlAfter meeting for four straight days in the middle of May, we finally know a bit more about what happened in meetings between the NHL and its players.

We know ESPN will pay the NFL $1.1 billion for seventeen games. And we know that ESPN has declined its NHL broadcast rights to 40 games, even for the paltry sum of $60 million.

Even with the optimum payout from the NBC Universal over-the-air rights deal - which the LA Times reports pays no rights fee and only splits advertising revenues after paying for NBC's legendary production costs - the whole professional hockey proposition is in freefall.

It's too bad that IPTV isn't closer to broad deployment: this situation might be perfect for a company with deep pockets that covets an audience influenced heavily by local sports. Even if this quagmire were to end next week, given the damage to date and the distance between the player's union and the reality of today's media economics, it wouldn't surprise me to see Verizon partnering with the more storied NHL franchise owners in 2009 to buy out the league's destiny once and for all.

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