The National Hockey League has entered into a multi-year partnership with Russian internet company Yandex to exclusively broadcast games in Russia via its streaming platform.
Beginning with the Oct. 2 start of the 2019-20 season Yandex will broadcast regular season games, as well as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, for free on an ad-supported business model. Games and highlights will also be available to watch on-demand after live broadcasts.
The streaming platform – which is part of Russia’s largest search company and digital advertiser – provides fans with an interactive experience while watching games, including live chatting and reaction emojis.
Leading Russian players in the NHL include Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev (St. Louis Blues), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning).
According to a press release, Yandex users performed more than 93 million ice hockey-related queries on its search engine in 2018, with Russian NHL players ranking among the most-searched athletes.
“Yandex is an industry leader in Russia and a uniquely compelling platform to deliver NHL games and our star players to hockey fans across the country,” said David Proper, NHL’s executive vice president of international and media strategy. “This partnership is the result of Yandex and the NHL’s shared commitment to provide content that will engage passionate fans and offer the potential to reach an even broader audience.”
The NHL’s broadcast rights in Russia were previously held by Eurosport in a three-year deal that concluded with the end of the 2018-19 season.