In a monumental turn of events for women’s hockey, the PHF has announced that ESPN+ will become the exclusive home of all 60 regular season games, plus special events and Isobel Cup Playoff and Championship games for the 2021-22 season.
With all 6 teams set to play 20 games this upcoming season, that means that 60 regular season games will be available to stream between puck drop on November 6 and the last game of the regular season on March 13.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the PHF and most importantly for our athletes who deserve the exposure that a major network can provide,” said Commissioner Tyler Tumminia in the PHF’s press release following the announcement. “Partnering with ESPN+ is a significant step in our history as we continue to grow the sport with a platform that will introduce our new era to a larger audience with an enhanced standard for how our games will be delivered.”
What’s really important about this deal is that ESPN+ has committed to broadcast the entire season. Previous partnerships between women’s hockey properties and major media providers have generally been short-term agreements like last year’s NBC broadcast of the Isobel Cup Championship or the special event style broadcasts of things the IIHF Women’s World Championships or the Rivalry Series between Team Canada and Team USA. A full season of broadcasts has the potential to not only get people interested in PHF hockey, but to keep them coming back. The ability to follow one team for an entire season is a huge factor when it comes to making and retaining fans.
ESPN+ will be the exclusive home of the PHF, meaning that the Twitch broadcasts that the league was known for will no longer be available for fans in the U.S.
The priority for the PHF has clearly been in finding an American broadcasting partner, and for a federation with five out of six teams located stateside, it makes sense. For International fans, it’s probably a safe assumption that there will be some kind of streaming option, whether those streams remain on Twitch or move elsewhere.
This morning’s announcement also gives a little bit of context as to why the PHF seemed to be in such a hurry to announce last month’s rebrand. Changing the name and branding before getting so many eyes on the product is a clean slate of sorts. The first five years of the league are absolutely a part of its history, a new name doesn’t change that fact, but rebranding before an expected growth in viewership does makes sense. The PHF coming to ESPN+ already having announced their new name allows them to start building recognition immediately.
Fans will be able to catch all the PHF action on ESPN+ alongside NCAA men’s and women’s hockey, KHL hockey and over 1,000 NHL games.