Comcast will not be able to offer broadband internet access to NHL fans unless the league agrees to pay for it, NBC Sports has learned.
The cable provider’s plan, which has been the subject of a long-running legal dispute, would require customers to purchase a Comcast Internet subscription to access the company’s Internet-only offerings, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
The league’s current cable deal expires at the end of March.
The company has not publicly confirmed any agreement, and its lawyers have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
A Comcast spokesman said the company “has not been in discussions with the league on the issue.”
Comcast has also not commented on the Comcast Internet plan.
The deal, if it becomes official, would give Comcast more leverage to demand concessions from NHL owners in the future, said one of the sources familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.
Owners of NHL teams, who are also paying for the rights to their teams’ games, have previously demanded concessions from Comcast in the past, such as a $100-per-month broadband subscription.
The league has not reached a deal with Comcast.
The Comcast deal is likely to spark more friction in negotiations between Comcast and the league.
The two sides are due to hold a conference call Thursday morning, according the sources.
Comcast is expected to argue that it has the financial resources to provide broadband service to fans, which could mean that the cable company would be required to provide the service to all NHL fans.
The team owners have also threatened to sue Comcast if the company fails to pay the full cost of the plan.
The issue of broadband access to fans is one of several areas where Comcast and NHL are locked in a long battle over who should be the exclusive provider of broadband service for the league, and how much it should charge for the service.
The NHL is trying to negotiate with other providers for the right to offer the service, including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.
Comcast has said it does not need the team owners’ permission to offer its own broadband service.
The latest Comcast-NBC Sports deal would allow the cable operator to offer Internet access to some fans.
But Comcast has insisted that it will not have broadband access for all fans unless they sign up for a Comcast subscription.
Comcast said in a statement that “the proposed agreement is not an exclusive cable agreement.”
The company said the agreement is subject to the same contractual restrictions and obligations that apply to any other contract.
If Comcast fails to reach a deal, it could force the league to ask for a court order to force the company to provide access to its fans.
In the past the NHL has asked the courts to order the cable provider to provide its fans with broadband service if they signed up for the plan, but those requests have been unsuccessful.
The last time the league requested a court injunction to force Comcast to provide Internet access was in 2010.
The NHL has faced increasing pressure from the cable companies over the last few years.
A report in October 2015 by the American Cable Association said the NHL is losing $9 billion a year because of the cable wars.
The leagues most important revenue stream, the National Hockey League’s television rights, are tied up in the deals between Comcast, AT&s and Verizon.