The Premier Hockey Federation will make ESPN+ its exclusive U.S. broadcasting partner for the 2021-22 season, making the network home to all 60 regular-season games, the Isobel Cup playoffs and other special events.
It marks the first time the PHF, which rebranded from the National Women’s Hockey League this year, will have all its games hosted on the same platform.
“This is historic for us,” PHF commissioner Tyler Tumminia said, noting that negotiations had been ongoing for approximately five months. “ESPN is becoming the home of hockey, right? We all wanted to be a part of that.”
International broadcasting details will be forthcoming.
The PHF bills itself as the “leading home of professional women’s hockey in North America” and consists of six franchises: the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps and Toronto Six. The PHF’s 60 regular-season games will be played over 19 weekends, with all six teams competing 20 times.
“The Premier Hockey Federation is an exciting, up-and-coming league that we look forward to presenting to hockey fans in the U.S. exclusively on ESPN+,” said John Lasker, ESPN vice president of digital media programming. “As the top professional women’s hockey league in North America, the PHF makes a great addition to our growing lineup of hockey on ESPN+, which now includes NCAA men’s and women’s hockey, the Kontinental Hockey League from Europe and Asia, and more than 1,000 NHL games this season.”
The PHF has found success reaching fans through streaming, including more than 2 million views on Twitch, according to Tumminia.
“When you’re dealing with networks, you have to show growth and you have to show momentum,” Tumminia said. “It’s about exposure for this game and its athletes. It’s really exciting.”
Tumminia said the league’s games will have an upgrade in broadcast presentation, including elevating its cameras for games. The PHF also hired Michael Cohen, the Emmy Award-winning head of production for two FIFA World Cups, as an executive media consultant in January. Tumminia said members of the PHF community and some “potential talent from the ESPN+ side” will help with the broadcasts this season.
The ESPN+ deal was one of the catalysts for the PHF’s rebranding. The league was founded as the National Women’s Hockey League in 2015 and played six seasons under that banner.
“We knew we wanted to rebrand before announcing the ESPN+ deal. The stage will be larger than we’ve ever been on. The exposure for brand awareness will be larger,” said Tumminia, who was named league commissioner in August. “The athletes felt very passionate about defining themselves just as skilled athletes.”
The PHF season begins Nov. 6.