The NHL is partnering with MLB to overhaul the league's digital operations. (USATSI)
The NHL is partnering with MLB to overhaul the league's digital operations. (USATSI)

Major changes are coming to the way fans consume digital content directly from the National Hockey League.

The NHL and Major League Baseball are expected to deliver a joint announcement Tuesday of a “groundbreaking new partnership” between the two leagues. According to Sports Business Journal, the partnership involves MLB Advanced Media taking over the NHL’s digital operations, including the league’s and member clubs’ websites, live streaming, mobile applications and NHL Network. The NHL signed a six-year partnership with MLBAM on this new endeavor.

So what does this mean for NHL fans?

The general consensus is that MLBAM’s involvement is only a good thing, so here’s three ways this new partnership could benefit NHL fans.

1. $$$$$$ – According to SBJ, the NHL is getting $100 million per year in rights fees, plus a 7-10 percent equiety in MLBAM. The entire deal is valued at $1.2 billion.

If this falls under the same category as the NHL’s recent television rights deal with Rogers Sportsnet, this would be classified as hockey-related revenue, meaning the salary cap presumably would go up thanks to this new money flow.

This partnership also comes on the heels of the NHL’s massive rights deal with Rogers which kicked in last season. That deal, which has taken a bit of a hit due to the falling Canadian dollar, was for $5.232 billion (Canadian). If the NHL can also add two new expansion teams and earn the $500 million in fees from each of those new clubs, Gary Bettman can do his best Scrooge McDuck impression when all is said and done.

2. GameCenter Live – With MLBAM taking over the NHL’s live streaming rights, this could be very good news for those growing frustrated with the current GameCenter Live. Though improvements have been made over the years, long delays and other general clunkiness has frustrated users.

It will also be interesting to see if the full swath of features from come over to the NHL side. Things like watching the game with an overlay of the radio broadcast audio would be something new for the NHL that fans could enjoy.

This is unlikely to change anything in regards to regional blackouts, however, which is probably what you really want to know if you’re a paying customer for live streaming.

3. NHL Network – If you’re an avid consumer of the NHL and your cable or dish provider has NHL Network, you’re probably a subscriber. You’re also probably not all that thrilled with being one. With a dearth of original programming, besides a daily afternoon talk show and a nightly highlights program, there’s just not a whole lot to actually consume.

The network is home to many live games over the course of the season, often taking one of the team’s local feeds, but that’s one of the few redeeming qualities. The network does carry the Hockey Night in Canada pregame show and other Sportsnet-owned properties, which helps, but it’s hard not to want more.

That’s especially true if you’ve seen what MLB Network has to offer. There’s more original programming, providing fresher content on a daily basis. It also looks a lot better, with a professional studio and all the bells and whistles. NHL Network, to put it bluntly, looked cheap.

The people at NHL Network, by and large, are talented individuals, but it was noticeable that they were dealing with a minor-league budget. The product suffered less because of talent and more because of not really getting enough TLC from the league on the financial side of things.

According to SBJ, MLBAM will be moving NHL Network’s U.S. operations from Toronto to the Secaucus, N.J., studio that houses MLB Network. That alone should provide a boost in quality to the product and help better engage fans. A more robust offering of original content would have to follow to make it worth it, but NHL fans should be excited about the change coming.

The NHL and MLB are expected to reveal more details of the new partnership during a teleconference Tuesday afternoon.